1) NGT says no to age-old practice of straw burning :-

  • Stubble burning is the deliberate setting fire of the straw stubble that remains after wheat and other grains have been harvested.
  • The burning of stubble, contrasted with alternatives such as ploughing the stubble back into the ground has a number of consequences and effects on the environment Stubble burning:
    • Quickly clears the field and is cheap.
    • Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.
    • Kills slugs and other pests.
    • Can reduce nitrogen tie-up

    However, it has a number of harmful effects on the environment:

    • Loss of nutrients.
    • Pollution from smoke.
    • Damage to electrical and electronic equipment from floating threads of conducting waste.
    • Risk of fires spreading out of control

    Note:-There is a perception that stubble burning contributes to atmospheric CO2. However carbon dioxide releases are only slightly greater than those from natural decomposition.

  • The practice is followed by farmers not only to save time under the rice-wheat crop rotation cycle to clear the land of residue of one harvest and sow the next, it is also believed that it makes the land more fertile and kill pests.
  • A Bench headed by the NGT  chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar directed the Delhi government and the four northern States of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to check the bi-annual menace, which the farmers engage in to save time between sowing of wheat and rice. The tribunal also announced a fine of Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 15,000 on farmers found indulging in straw burning.


  • It is easy to penalize the farmer and put a check on straw burning, however what the NGT  has failed to mention is that , it has not suggested any alternative to crop management or asked any government authority to look at the issue in holistic manner.
  • India’s farmers are marginal farmers and it is easy for them to light a fire than to afford a machine .Hence due consideration for alternative is necessity and promotion of the alternative through various propaganda means is essential.Consensus building can yield a better and sustaining prospect than imposing a law.
  • Finding a policy or legal solution to environmental problems is easy , and due to this very reason the officials who will monitor the stubble burning may engage in corruption practices. The reason is simple, if there is no viable alternative , the farmers will do what they did before, and  now after the  declaration of penal provisions by NGT , they will be subjected to coercion and leaving space for corruption.
  • Possible Alternative:-
    • At harvest, it is best to chop the straw as fine as possible and spread both the straw and chaff across as wide an area as possible. A chaff spreader can be added on to a combine at reasonable cost. Chopping straw does not influence its rate of breakdown but it does facilitate harrowing or cultivation which places the straw in closer contact with soil which does hasten decomposition. 
    • Bio-ethanol Refinery :-
      • Can play an important role in solving the chronic problem of straw burning of leftover agro-based produce especially from wheat and rice feedstocks.
      • Benefit farmers economically, as they would be paid for their agro-based produce to extract bio-ethanol
  • The issue of straw burning can only be resolved if ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research ) provides a viable alternative which is affordable for the poor farmers.The Government should  engage in awareness campaign to sensitize the farmers  and farmers themselves should be convinced to do away with the age-old practice.

2)SAFAR :-System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research

  •  SAFAR envisages a research based management system where strategies of air pollution mitigation go hand in hand with nation’s economic development to target a win-win scenario.
  • Air Quality indicators are monitored at about 3 m height from the ground with online sophisticated instruments. These instruments are operated round the clock and data is recorded and stored at every 5 minute interval for quality check and further analysis.
  • Pollutants monitored: PM1, PM2.5, PM10, Ozone, CO, NOx (NO, NO2), SO2, BC, Methane (CH4), Non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), VOC’s, Benzene, MercuryMonitored Meteorological Parameters: UV Radiation, Rainfall, Temperature, Humidity, Wind speed, Wind direction, solar radiation

3)Swachh Bharat Cess at the rate of 0.5% :-

  • Swachh Bharat Cess is not another tax but a step towards involving each and every citizen in making contribution to Swachh Bharat. In this direction, the Government has decided to impose, with effect from 15th November 2015, a Swachh Brarat Cess at the rate of 0.5% on all services, which are presently liable to service tax. This will translate into a tax of 50 paisa only on every one hundred rupees worth of taxable services. The proceeds from this cess will be exclusively used for Swachh Bharat initiatives.
  • Cleanliness also has huge impact on public health. Dirty surroundings also cause many diseases, like, malaria, dengue, diarrohea, jaundice, cholera etc., with associated high public health expenditure. According to the Government of India estimates, expenditure on health adds up to Rs.6,700 crore annually (approximately Rs.60 per capita). Increased allocation for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan can prevent many of these diseases with consequential benefit to one and all.

4)South Asian Regional Intelligence and Coordination Centre on Transnational Organized Crime (SARICC-TOC):-

  • During the recently held International Conference ‘Networking the Networks’ in national capital, delegates from India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Myanmar discussed threadbare the modalities for creation of a regional platform to be called ‘South Asian Regional Intelligence and Coordination Centre on Transnational Organized Crime’ (SARICC-TOC), for information/intelligence sharing to enable all Member States to respond Transnational organized crimes.
  • The SARICC meeting concluded with representatives of the proposed SARICC-TOC, namely, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Myanmar and finalized the draft structure and Terms of reference of SARICC-TOC.
  • This is all the more relevant since the South Asia region lacks such regional coordination mechanism on the lines of Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC) or Asia-Pacific Information & Coordination Center for Combating Drug Crimes (APICC) to facilitate criminal intelligence sharing and operational coordination related to organized crime, including illicit drug trafficking and related activities such as precursor trafficking and money laundering

5)RGI releases Census 2011 data on literacy, workers and educational levels :-

  • The Registrar General & Census Commissioner of India released  data  of Census 2011 on Highest Educational Level Attained among population attending educational institution by age and sex.
  • Data :- Below Primary occupies the major share of 32.6% followed by Primary (25.2%), Middle (15.7%), Matric (11.1%), Higher Secondary (8.6%) and Graduate & above (4.5%).
  • Observation:- During the decade 2001-11, improvement is observed at Middle and above educational levels and decline in percentage share at lower levels (below-Primary and Primary). The improvements at higher educational levels are indication of educational advancement in the country during the decade 2001-11.

6) Prime Minister’s  15-point programme for socio-economic-educational development and empowerment of minorities :-

Theme – Enhancing opportunities for Education

  1. Equitable availability of ICDS( Integrated Child Development Services )
  2. Improving access to school education
  3. Greater resources for school education
  4. Modernizing Madarsa Education
  5. Scholarship
  6. Improving educational infrastructure through the Maulana Azad Education Foundation

Theme-Equitable Share in Economic Activities and Employment

7.Self-Employment and Wage Employment for the poor -Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY),Swarnajayanti Sahari Swarojgar Yojana (SJSRY),National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS)

8.Upgradation of skills through technical training

9.Enhanced credit support for economic activities

10.Recruitment to State and Central Service

Theme-Improving the conditions of living of minorities

11.Equitable share in rural housing scheme

12.Improvement in condition of slums inhabited by minority communities

Theme – Prevention & Control of Communal Riots
        13.Prevention of communal incidents
        14.Prosecution for communal offences
        15.Rehabilitation of Victims of communal riots

7) iLEDtheway Microsite:-

  • Union Minister of State (IC) for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy launched the microsite www.iledtheway.in
  • In today’s era of Digital India, the microsite will attempt to reach out to all citizens in the country and spread awareness about the nation-wide movement of #iLEDtheway. Through this microsite, consumers can take a pledge of switching to LED bulbs, which are safer, brighter and consume less energy.
  • The Microsite visitors can join the movement by simply clicking “Take a Pledge” tab which is prominently displayed on the homepage. Consumers who do not have access to the LED bulb distribution under the DELP scheme in their city/state, can pre-register for the scheme by sharing their contact details. It will also give exciting information on the reduction in CO2 emissions, energy saved, avoided peak demand and is filled with pictures, videos, distribution centre details in each state and more.
  • DELP :-Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme (DELP)
    • The government aims to replace 77 crore conventional bulbs and CFLs with the LEDs under DELP and 3.5 crore street lights over 3-year period, making it the largest LED based lighting programme in the world.Initiatives of distributing LED bulbs save upto 85 lakh KWh every day and have helped in reduction of close to 15,000 tonnes of CO2 per day.

8) SATYAM :-

  • A new programme called SATYAM-“Science and Technology of Yoga and Meditation” has been launched to strengthen research in the areas of yoga and meditation.
  • An objective of SATYAM is to harness knowledge obtained in academic institutions and other related agencies for finding Science & Technology -led solutions that would enable us to cope with stress and strain associated with fast changing social, economic, environmental and professional circumstances

9) IMPRINT India :-

  • IMPRINT is the first of its kind MHRD supported Pan-IIT + IISc joint initiative to address the major science and engineering challenges that India must address and champion to enable, empower and embolden the nation for inclusive growth and self-reliance. This novel initiative with twofold mandate is aimed at:
  • (a) Developing new engineering education policy
    (b) Creating a road map to pursue engineering challenges , IMPRINT provides the overarching vision that guides research into areas that are predominantly socially relevant.

10)Ground Zero Summit 2015 :-

  • The Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh recently inaugurated the Asia’s foremost Information Security Conference: Ground Zero Summit 2015
  • Theme: The theme for the Summit is Digital India – ‘Securing Digital India’.
  • Aim of the summit: The summit is being organized to deliberate upon various issues related to cyber security challenges emerging due to the latest technological developments
  • Summary of Summit:-
    • Cyber security is a big challenge these days and ‘cyber barriers’ need to be created to tackle it
    • Cyber world is the fifth dimension of security along with the earlier dimensions of security i.e. land, air, water and space. The crimes related to cyber world can be multi-layered, multi-location, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-legal, that’s why it is difficult to investigate and reach to the criminal
    • Government has started making efforts to set up the “Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre” (I-4C). This will help in monitoring and capacity building of the cyber crimes and will also help the Law Enforcement Agencies in curtailing these crimes.
    • The summit is being organized by the Indian Infosec Consortium (ICC), a not-for-profit organization formed by leading cyber security professionals of the country. With the events like Ground Zero Summit and formation of National Cyber Registry, ICC wants to consolidate the cyber security resources in the country and protect its cyberspace. The summit is the collaborative platform in Asia for cyber security experts and researchers to address emerging cyber security challenges and demonstrate cutting-edge technologies.

11) Three Gold related Scheme Launched:-

*Note:- The schemes of this nature has magnitude of data , most of them are irrelevant from UPSC exam perspective.Hence you may go through the literature of these schemes but remember as necessary.The analysis is important.

  • Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS):-

    • The GMS will replace the existing Gold Deposit Scheme, 1999
    • The gold will be accepted at the Collection and Purity Testing Centres (CPTC) certified by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The deposit certificates will be issued by banks in equivalent  of 995 fineness of gold.
    • The designated banks will accept gold deposits under the Short Term (1-3 years) Bank Deposit (STBD) as well as Medium (5-7 years) and Long (12-15 years) Term Government Deposit Schemes (MLTGD). While the former will be accepted by banks on their own account, the latter will be on behalf of the Government of India. There will be provision for premature withdrawal subject to a minimum lock-in period and penalty to be determined by individual banks for the STBD.
    • The interest rate  in the STBD will be determined by the banks. The interest rate in the medium term bonds has been fixed at 2.25% and for the long-term bonds is 2.5% for the bonds issued in 2015-16.
  • Gold sovereign bond scheme:
    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will issue these bonds on behalf of the central government.
    • The gold bonds will be denominated in multiples of gram(s) of gold with a basic unit of one gram while the minimum investment limit is two grams.
    • The maximum subscription is 500 grams per person per fiscal (April-March) and for joint holders, the limit will be applied on the first holder.
    • As per the scheme, the gold bonds will be sold only to resident Indian entities including individuals, Hindu undivided families, trusts, universities, and charitable institutions.The bond tenure will be eight years with exit option beginning the fifth year onwards. They will also be tradable in the bourses.Bonds can also be used as collateral for loans.
  • India gold coin and bullion scheme:-
    • The gold coin and gold bullion schemes are part of the gold monetization programme.
    • The coin will be the first ever national gold coin and will bear Ashok Chakra.
    • Initially, the coins will be available in denominations of 5 and 10 grams. A 20 gram bullion bar will also be launched.
    • As many as 15,000 coins of 5 gm, 20,000 coins of 10 gm and 3,750 bullion bars will be made available through Metals and Minerals Trading Corporations (MMTC) outlets.

Reasoning behind these Schemes:-

  • Indian have a greater affinity to gold, it is the most dearly held precious metal by Indian families.It has a paramount cultural significance . Over the centuries Indians have accumulated enormous amount of gold which is locked away in their safety boxes, sitting idle , earning no return.
  • On the same vein, the demand of gold has grown multi-fold in the past few years. India being a young nation(demographically) the gold demand is only going to increase and this metal plays a critical role in marriages and other ceremonies related to life.More the youth, more the marriage and more the demand for gold.
  • The scheme has envisaged to unlock the potential of idle gold  and put it to use. It has one major significance:-
    • India is not a great producer of gold, our gold mines have never been able to meet the demand , hence we import gold in large quantities, which puts  burden on Balance of Payment (Govt has to pay in dollars to get these gold , thus reducing the forex reserve too )
  • With this scheme the balance of payment issue can be resolved.It also allows the depositor to earn on the idle gold.Hence it is a win-win situation for both Government  and Depositor.

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