Current Affairs

Prime Minister Launches 'Sankalp Saptaah' Program for Aspirational Blocks

On 30th September, Prime Minister inaugurated the 'Sankalp Saptaah' program, a unique week-long initiative aimed at Aspirational Blocks in India.

Key Points

  • Focus on 5 Parameters: Prime Minister urged delegates to focus on five parameters to increase confidence and make the block a source of inspiration for others.
  • Shift to Outcome Orientation: PM discussed the shift from output-oriented governance to outcome-oriented governance and highlighted the importance of resource utilization, convergence, and equitable distribution.
  • Promoting Young Officers: The Prime Minister suggested promoting young officers who succeed at the block level to encourage their dedication.
  • Future Monitoring: PM assured meticulous monitoring of the program and shared that the progress chart of the Aspirational District program served as his inspiration.
  • Development Beyond Metro Cities: The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of development reaching all regions and people, beyond metro cities.
  • Role of Gram Panchayat: PM highlighted the critical role of Gram Panchayat in the Aspirational Block and District program.
  • Encouraging Young Officers: Prime Minister Modi recommended that state governments encourage young officers who excel at the block level.
  • 'Sankalp Saptaah': The 'Sankalp Saptaah' program is linked to the effective implementation of the Aspirational Blocks Programme (ABP) launched by Prime Minister Modi.
  • It aims to enhance governance at the block level for improving citizens' quality of life.
  • Implementation: 'Sankalp Saptaah' is observed in 500 Aspirational Blocks across 329 districts in India.
  • Development Themes: Each day of 'Sankalp Saptaah' from October 3 to October 9, 2023, focuses on a specific development theme.
  • These themes include health, nutrition, sanitation, agriculture, education, and prosperity.

Aspirational Blocks Programme (ABP): Development Initiative for Lagging Areas

  • ABP aims to enhance the performance of areas that lag in various development parameters.
  • Announced in Union Budget 2022-23.
  • Initially covers 500 districts in 31 states and Union Territories.
  • Majority of these blocks located in six states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal.
  • ABP builds upon the foundation of the Aspirational District Programme (ADP).

Aspirational District Programme (ADP): Launched in 2018 for Socio-Economic Transformation

  • ADP targets districts with poor socio-economic indicators.
  • Encompasses 112 districts across India.
  • Managed at the national level by NITI Aayog.
  • Individual Ministries also contribute to district progress.
  • Key Features:
    • Convergence of Central and State Schemes.
    • Collaboration involving Central, State-level 'Prabhari' Officers, and District Collectors.
    • Competition through monthly delta ranking.
  • Objectives:
    • Identify districts' strengths.
    • Focus on quick wins for immediate improvement.
    • Rank districts monthly.
    • Encourage districts to catch up with the best in their state and the nation.
    • Align with Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Parameters for Ranking (Based on Incremental Progress):
    • Health & Nutrition (30%)
    • Education (30%)
    • Agriculture & Water Resources (20%)
    • Financial Inclusion & Skill Development (10%)
    • Infrastructure (10%)
  • Flagship Initiatives: Programs like Saksham Bitiyan Abhiyan, Anemia Mukt Bharat, and Surakshit Hum Surakshit Tum are part of NITI Aayog's efforts under ADP.

AFSPA Extended in Four Assam Districts; 'Disturbed Area' Tag Withdrawn in Four Others

The Assam Police announced on October 1 that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has been extended for an additional six months in four districts of the state while withdrawing the 'disturbed area' tag from four other districts.

Key Points

  • AFSPA Continuation: Assam Police has extended the enforcement of AFSPA for six more months in four districts.
  • Designated Districts: The districts where AFSPA will remain in effect are Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sivasagar, and Charaideo.
  • Tag Removal: The 'disturbed area' tag, which allows for the enforcement of AFSPA, has been withdrawn from four districts.
  • Affected Districts: Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong, and Dima Hasao will no longer have AFSPA in effect, effective from October 1.
  • Previous Extension: The Assam government had previously extended the 'disturbed area' notification under AFSPA for another six months, starting from April 1, in these eight districts.
  • Empowering Security Forces: AFSPA grants security forces the authority to conduct operations and make arrests without prior warrants.
  • Immunity Provisions: It also provides immunity from arrest and prosecution to security forces in cases where they use lethal force.

New Disability Pension Rules Introduced for Military Personnel

Recently, the Defence Ministry has released updated entitlement rules (ER) for disability pensions for military personnel, incorporating changes to certain provisions and introducing an 'impairment relief' (IR) for conditions like hypertension and diabetes, amid concerns about the high number of personnel receiving disability pensions.

Key Points

  • New Compensation: The revised rules introduce 'Impairment Relief' (IR) as a monthly disability compensation.
  • Covering Lifestyle Diseases: IR is designed to cover conditions like hypertension and diabetes, which were not previously included under disability pensions.
  • Eligibility Criteria: Armed forces personnel who retire or are discharged with a disability categorized as Category B or C, assessed at 20% or more, will receive IR.
  • Not a Pension: IR is distinct from a pension and ceases upon the recipient's demise.
  • CAG Report: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) earlier requested the Defence Ministry to analyze the high prevalence of disability pensions among military personnel.
  • CAG's report indicated that a significant percentage of officers and personnel below officer rank (PBOR) retiring annually were receiving disability pensions.
  • New Rules Effective Date: The rules, titled 'Casualty Pension and Disability Compensation Awards to Armed Forces Personnel,' take effect from September 21, 2023.
  • Recommendations from Study Group: The ER, 2023 incorporates recommendations from a Study Group comprising members from various military branches and departments, aimed at updating the rules to reflect policy changes since ER, 2008.
  • Specific Cases: Concerns have been raised regarding scenarios where soldiers experience health issues like cardiac arrest or cancer due to military service. The new rules appear to limit eligibility for special family pensions and disability pensions in such cases.
  • Reduction in Disability Percentage: The percentage for hypertension-induced disabilities has been reduced from 30% to 5%, potentially impacting eligibility for disability benefits.
  • Geographic Limitations: Critics argue that the new rules restrict benefits to high-altitude areas and service durations exceeding three months, contrary to Supreme Court rulings.

Rajnath Singh Launches Digital Initiatives for Defence Accounts Department

On Oct 1, Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh inaugurated a series of digital initiatives by the Defence Accounts Department (DAD) during its 276th Annual Day celebration at Delhi Cantt, including an integrated defence finance dashboard, 'SARANSH', and systems for bill information, analysis, and housing.

Key Points

  • Guardian of Defence Finance: Defence Minister acknowledged DAD as the guardian of defence finance, enhancing transparency and efficiency.

SARANSH (Summary of Accounts, Budget & Expenditure for Raksha Mantralaya):

  • Objective: SARANSH aims to provide an accurate and objective view of defence financial data across India, leveraging data analytics.
  • Dashboard Features: It offers a real-time comprehensive platform with dashboard features for centralized monitoring and data-driven decisions.

BISWAS (Bill Information and Work Analysis System):

  • Dashboard Purpose: BISWAS serves as a dashboard for various offices, offering detailed analysis of bill processing and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

e-Raksha Awaas:

  • Streamlined Process: e-Raksha Awaas optimizes rent and allied charge generation and facilitates prompt remission to Government Accounts, unifying stakeholders on a single online platform.

Raksha Mantri Awards for Excellence 2023:

  • Awards Presented: Defence Minister presented Raksha Mantri Awards for Excellence to five teams for innovative initiatives in department projects.
  • Projects Recognized: The awarded projects covered training methodology, Computer Based Testing (CBT) for SAS Examinations, SARANSH Raksha Mantralaya Dashboard implementation, Dolphin 2.0 for pay and allowances, and KPIs for field offices.

India Maintains 40th Rank in Global Innovation Index 2023

India has retained its 40th position among 132 economies in the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2023, as recently reported by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Key Points

  • India's Consistent Improvement: India's steady climb in the GII ranking is attributed to its rich knowledge capital, a thriving startup ecosystem, and remarkable contributions from both public and private research organizations.
  • NITI Aayog highlighted its efforts to drive policy-led innovation in various sectors, including electric vehicles, biotechnology, nanotechnology, space, and alternative energy sources.
  • India's Standing among Middle-Income Economies: WIPO's report noted that, apart from India, only four other middle-income economies are in the top 40, including China (12th), Malaysia (36th), Bulgaria (38th), and Türkiye (39th).
  • India also leads as the top innovation economy among lower-middle-income countries, with Vietnam and Ukraine following suit.
  • Innovation Overperformers: India, the Republic of Moldova, and Vietnam have consistently outperformed in innovation for 13 consecutive years, according to the report.
  • Global Unicorn Distribution: The report highlighted that five economies host 80 percent of the world's unicorns: the US (54 percent), China (14 percent), India (6 percent), the United Kingdom (4 percent), and Germany (2 percent).
  • Out of a total unicorn valuation of $3.8 trillion in 2023, the US held $2 trillion, followed by China with $736 billion and India with $193 billion.
  • Government and Innovation Ecosystem: Various government departments, including scientific ones like the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Biotechnology, and the Department of Space, have contributed significantly to India's innovation ecosystem.
  • Initiatives such as the Atal Innovation Mission have played a pivotal role in expanding the innovation landscape.

About the Global Innovation Index (GII)

  • An annual publication measuring an economy's innovation performance.
  • Widely used by numerous countries to evaluate and enhance their innovation ecosystems.
  • Recognized by the UN Economic and Social Council as a benchmark for measuring innovation in relation to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Indicators of the GII

  • Parameters include 'institutions', 'human capital and research', 'infrastructure', 'market sophistication', 'business sophistication', 'knowledge and technology outputs', and 'creative outputs'.

About WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)

  • Global forum for intellectual property (IP) services, policy, information, and cooperation.
  • A self-funding agency of the United Nations with 193 member states.
  • Aims to develop an equitable international IP system fostering innovation and creativity for the benefit of all.
  • Established in 1967 under the WIPO Convention, outlining its mandate, governing bodies, and procedures.

Taiwan Launches First Domestically Made Submarine for Testing

On 28th Sept, Taiwan's president inaugurated the island's inaugural domestically manufactured submarine, commencing testing activities at a port in Kaohsiung.

Key Points

  • U.S. Influence on Asymmetric Warfare: The United States has encouraged Taiwan to develop asymmetric warfare strategies, emphasizing investments in smaller and lighter weapons like the reduced-size submarine.
  • This strategy aligns with Taiwan's efforts to bolster its military capabilities.
  • Challenges and Construction Process: Following seven years of design and construction, the prototype will undergo testing in the harbour before venturing into the open sea.
  • The submarine, named Hai Kun after a legendary Chinese fish, will be officially handed over to the military after successfully completing both harbour and ocean-faring tests.
  • Taiwan plans to construct an additional submarine if the prototype proves successful, with both intended for deployment by 2027.
  • Origins of Taiwan's Submarine Initiative: Taiwan initiated the challenging task of building its own submarines after encountering obstacles from Beijing, which prevented foreign purchases through economic and diplomatic pressures.
  • China's increased military activities near Taiwan have prompted the island nation to enhance its defence capabilities.
  • China's Response and Military Exercises: China's Defence Ministry expressed disapproval of Taiwan's submarine project, viewing it as detrimental to the prospect of reunification.

Ministry of Textiles Approves R&D Projects for Advancing Technical Textiles

On 28th Sept, Union Minister Shri Piyush Goyal emphasized the pivotal role of industry and institutes in advancing India's technical textiles sector during the 7th Meeting of the Mission Steering Group (MSG) of National Technical Textiles Mission.

Key Points

  • Diverse R&D Projects Approved: The Ministry of Textiles sanctioned 18 research and development (R&D) projects during the 7th MSG meeting, with a total value of INR 46.74 crores.
  • These projects span critical domains of technical textiles, including Geotech, Protech, Indutech, Sustainable Textiles, Sportech, Smart E-Textiles, and Meditech segments.
  • Project Breakdown: Among the 18 approved projects, 14 are categorized as high-value projects, while 3 fall under the Prototype Grant projects, and 1 is an Ideation Grant project.
  • These initiatives encompass a wide range of applications within technical textiles, with specific allocations for various sectors.
  • Education and Skill Development: Progress in education, training, and skill development was also on the agenda. A total of 26 applications from 15 public and 11 private institutes, amounting to INR 151.02 crores, were approved to enhance technical textiles education and training.

Allegations by Canadian PM Shed Light on 'Five Eyes' Alliance

Recent claims by Canadian Prime Minister, linking the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil to the Indian government, have drawn attention to the intelligence-sharing alliance 'Five Eyes,' which is believed to have played a role in Canada's accusations against India.

Key Points

  • 'Five Eyes' Intelligence Sharing Network: The 'Five Eyes' is a collaborative intelligence-sharing network comprising over 20 agencies from five English-speaking nations: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • This alliance primarily focuses on surveillance and signals intelligence (SIGINT) operations.
  • Classified documents exchanged among member countries are labelled 'Secret—AUS/CAN/NZ/UK/US Eyes Only,' giving rise to the name 'Five Eyes.'
  • Origin and Evolution: Formed around the time of World War II, this alliance was initially aimed at countering the Soviet threat during the Cold War.
  • The foundation of 'Five Eyes' was formalized through the British-U.S. Communication Intelligence Agreement (BRUSA), later known as the UKUSA Agreement, in 1946.
  • Canada joined in 1948, while Australia and New Zealand became members in 1956.
  • The existence of this intelligence-sharing network remained top-secret for several decades, with Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam learning about it only in 1973.
  • Operations and Coverage: Initially focused on signals intelligence, the alliance's scope has expanded to address contemporary global challenges such as terrorism and China's increasing influence.
  • Member countries have designated areas of responsibility for SIGINT activities. For example, the United States handles Russia, northern China, most of Asia, and Latin America, while Australia manages southern China, Indo-China, and neighbouring regions like Indonesia.
  • The 'Five Eyes' has diversified its involvement in various areas, including ocean surveillance, defence intelligence, counterterrorism, and intelligence sharing through a collective database called 'Stone Ghost.'
  • Recent Concerns and Criticisms: Concerns have arisen regarding privacy, security, and the operations of this secretive alliance.
  • Critics argue that these agreements lack a legal foundation, bypassing domestic legislation and oversight. The "third party rule" in intelligence-sharing agreements restricts disclosure to third parties and oversight, raising democratic legitimacy concerns.

6 Infrastructure Projects Recommended for Approval under PM Gati Shakti Initiative

A recent official statement reveals that six infrastructure projects, involving roads and railways and amounting to Rs 52,000 crore, have been proposed for approval within the framework of the PM Gati Shakti initiative.

Key Points

  • Review in 56th NPG Meeting: During the 56th Network Planning Group (NPG) meeting held on September 27; six infrastructure projects underwent assessment.
  • These projects include four from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and two from the Ministry of Railways.
  • Integrated Planning for Infrastructure: The NPG, an inter-ministerial body, conducts bi-weekly meetings to evaluate infrastructure projects.
  • It follows a multi-modal approach, emphasizing coordinated efforts and comprehensive development in project areas.
  • PM Gati Shakti Initiative: The PM Gati Shakti initiative aims to establish an integrated infrastructure system with the goal of reducing logistics costs.
  • All logistics and connectivity infrastructure projects exceeding Rs 500 crore must go through NPG assessment and approval.
  • Approval Process: Approval from the NPG is a prerequisite before projects can be cleared by the Public Investment Board (PIB) or the Department of Expenditure under the Ministry of Finance.
  • The majority of projects reviewed by the group typically relate to roads, railways, and urban development.
  • Role of NPG: The Network Planning Group consolidates various layers of geospatial data, combining physical and social infrastructure information with land records.
  • This streamlined approach expedites planning and design phases, optimizing the impact of investments.
  • Collaboration across Ministries: NPG includes representatives from multiple ministries and departments responsible for connectivity infrastructure.
  • Heads of network planning divisions from these departments collaborate for unified planning and proposal integration.

India's Current Account Deficit Narrows to $9.2 Billion in 2023-24 Q1

India's current account deficit (CAD) in the first quarter of 2023-24 has decreased to $9.2 billion, equivalent to 1.1% of GDP, as recently reported by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Key Points

  • CAD Overview: The current account deficit (CAD) occurs when the value of imports of goods, services, and investment incomes exceeds the value of exports.
  • In Q1 2023-24, the CAD narrowed to $9.2 billion, although it remained higher than the $1.3 billion recorded in the preceding quarter.
  • Factors Contributing to CAD Change: The quarter-on-quarter widening of CAD was primarily attributed to an increased trade deficit, coupled with a decrease in net services surplus and private transfer receipts.
  • Trade Deficit Impact: The lower trade deficit of $56.6 billion, compared to $63 billion in the previous year, significantly contributed to the improvement in CAD.
  • This improvement was attributed to declining global commodity prices in the current fiscal year.
  • Future Trends and Projections: Economists anticipate potential changes in CAD trends due to factors such as fluctuating crude oil prices, foreign portfolio investments (FPI) inflows, external commercial borrowings (ECBs), and foreign direct investments (FDI).
Showing 1-10 of 9,725 items.