News Snippet

News 1: NHIT to raise ₹1,500 crore via non-convertible debentures – (Different ways of investment and raising capital. It is important as it forms an important part of capital markets)

News 2: Services sector growth slows to 6-month low, PMI suggests – (PMI gives an indication about the business condition and growth of service sector)

News 3: Govt. releases ₹7,183-crore deficit grant to 14 States – (Revenue deficit grant to states are provided on the basis of 15th finance commission recommendation)

News 4: Cough syrups exported only to the Gambia, finds CDSCO probe – (Location of Gambia and important to differentiate between functions of central and state drug authorities)

News 5: Vyommitra’s skills get a lift-off with digital grey matter (Important as it forms a part of Indian space programme which is included in UPSC GS-3 mains syllabus)

News 6: Supply constraints dented coal-biomass mixing (Biomass as an alternative source of energy which can increase efficiency in co-firing)

News 7: The Indian-made LCH ‘Prachand’ and its significance (Important as indigenization of technology and internal security in GS3 Mains syllabus of UPSC)

News 8: Nobel Prize for Literature (Important as questions have been asked related to awards in OPSC prelims)

News 9: World Bank pares India FY23 growth projection to 6.5% (Growth projection and consequent implications)

Other important news:

  1. Flash floods
  2. Chandraprabha sanctuary and Gir lions
  3. Rajasthan will have department of peace and non-violence

News 1: NHIT to raise ₹1,500 crore via non-convertible debentures


Background

National Highways Infrastructure Trust (NHIT), a registered infrastructure investment trust under the InvIT Regulations and sponsored by the NHAI, has filed its draft prospectus with SEBI to raise ₹1,500 crore by issuing non-convertible debentures.

Non-convertible debentures (NCDs)

  1. Debentures are long-term financial instruments which acknowledge a debt obligation towards the issuer.
  2. The debentures which can’t be converted into shares or equities are called non-convertible debentures (or NCDs).
  3. Non-convertible debentures are used as tools to raise long-term funds by companies through a public issue.
  4. To compensate for this drawback of non-convertibility, lenders are usually given a higher rate of return compared to convertible debentures.
  5. In India, usually these have to be issued of a minimum maturity of 90 days. NCDs may be issued in denominations with a minimum of Rs.5 lakh (face value) and in multiples of Rs.1 lakh. NCD interest rates depend on the company issuing the NCD.
  6. NCD investment can be held by individuals, banking companies, primary dealers, other corporate bodies registered or incorporated in India and unincorporated bodies.

Benefits of non-convertible debentures

  1. Better returns: Secured NCDs provide a higher NCD interest rate to their investors.
  2. Good liquidity: Sell NCD investments on stock exchanges or exercise the Put/Call option.
  3. No upfront tax: No tax is deducted at source as per the provisions of Sec 193 of the IT Act
  4. Diversification: NCD Investments add diversification to your portfolio with income security.

Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT)

  1. An Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvITs) is Collective Investment Scheme similar to a mutual fund, which enables direct investment of money from individual and institutional investors in infrastructure projects to earn a small portion of the income as return.
  2. The InvIT is designed as a tiered structure with Sponsor setting up the InvIT which in turn invests into the eligible infrastructure projects either directly or via special purpose vehicles (SPVs).
  3. InvITs are also like mutual funds that pool money from investors. InvITs own and operate infrastructure assets like highways, roads, pipelines, warehouses, power plants, etc. They offer regular income (via dividends) and long-term capital appreciation.
  4. There are listed InvITs, which are traded on the stock exchanges and investors can buy and sell InvIT units just like trading of shares of any listed company. There are unlisted InvITs as well, in which large institutional investors can participate.

News 2: Services sector growth slows to 6-month low, PMI suggests


Background

India’s services sector slowed down as per the S&P Global India Services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).

Reason behind lower service sector growth as per PMI

  1. Price pressures
  2. Increased competition
  3. Unfavourable public policies slowed momentum
  4. Moderation in growth also dampened job creation
  5. Input cost driven high inflation 
  6. Consumer services reported the biggest spike in cost burdens owing to higher energy, food, labour and material costs.
  7. Weak external demand due to declining international orders
  8. Steep depreciation of the rupee
  9. Risks of imported inflation and higher interest rates

Services Purchasing Managers’ Index

  • In order to get an economic insight into a sector, the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) provides an indicator based on surveys of businesses. The most common PMI surveys are the Manufacturing PMI and the Services PMI.
  • The Services PMI provides advanced insight into the services sector, giving investors a better understanding of business conditions and valuable information about the economic backdrop of various markets.

News 3: Govt. releases ₹7,183-crore deficit grant to 14 States


Background

The Finance Ministry released the monthly instalment of revenue deficit grant of ₹7,183 crore to 14 States.

The Post Devolution Revenue Deficit Grant is released, based on the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission, to Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

Post Devolution Revenue Deficit Grant

  1. The Post Devolution Revenue Deficit Grants are provided to the States under Article 275 of the Constitution.  The grants are released to the States as per the recommendations of the successive Finance Commissions to meet the gap in Revenue Accounts of the States post devolution.
  2. The 15th Finance Commission has recommended post devolution revenue deficit grants amounting to about Rs. 3 trillion over the five-year period ending FY26.
  3. The eligibility of States to receive this grant and the quantum of grant was decided by the Commission based on the gap between assessment of revenue and expenditure of the State.

News 4: Cough syrups exported only to the Gambia, finds CDSCO probe


Context

After a preliminary inquiry, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) found that the four cough syrups made by Maiden Pharmaceuticals, suspected to have caused the death of children in the Gambia, were exported only to the West African nation.

“Laboratory analysis of samples of each of the four products confirms that they contain unacceptable amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol as contaminants,” the WHO said in a medical product alert. The ingredients can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache and severe renal injury, it added.

 

Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO)

  1. Ministry: Ministry of Health and Family welfare
  2. Headquarter: New Delhi
  3. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) is India’s national regulatory body for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Functions

  1. Under the Drug and Cosmetics Act, the regulation of manufacture, sale and distribution of Drugs is primarily the concern of the State authorities
  2. The Central Authorities are responsible for approval of New Drugs, Clinical Trials in the country, laying down the standards for Drugs, control over the quality of imported Drugs, coordination of the activities of State Drug Control Organisations and providing expert advice with a view of bring about the uniformity in the enforcement of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
  3. Drug Controller General of India is responsible for approval of licenses of specified categories of Drugs such as blood and blood products, I. V. Fluids, Vaccine and Sera. 

News 5: Vyommitra’s skills get a lift-off with digital grey matter


Background

Vyommitra, a “female” robot astronaut

Vyommitra, the humanoid designed and developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to fly aboard unmanned test missions ahead of the Gaganyaan human space-flight mission, is undergoing pre-flight ground tests at the ISRO.

The AI-enabled robot is designed to fly aboard a rocket, withstanding vibrations and shock during the flight. It has been designed to resemble a human with facial expressions and speech and sight capabilities.

Vyommitra will fly aboard the first unmanned test flight ahead of the manned Gaganyaan flight expected in 2024.

Gaganyaan programme

  1. Gaganyaan is the first project taken up by ISRO for demonstrating the human space flight capability.
  2. The Gaganyaan programme envisages undertaking the demonstration of human spaceflight to LEO (Low Earth Orbit) with a crew of three astronauts to 400 km LEO.
  3. As per the mandate of Gaganyaan, two unmanned missions will be undertaken prior to the manned mission.
  4. The main objective of Gaganyaan Programme is to achieve autonomy in access to space providing both tangible and intangible benefits to the development of the national with maximal industry/academia participation and collaboration.
  5. Scientific experiments to advance the knowledge of the solar system are planned to be conducted.
  6. Gaganyaan is a National Programme wherein various National agencies will be collaborating with ISRO. The various stake holders include Indian Armed Forces, DRDO labs, Indian Industries, Premier Academic & Research institutions, CSIR labs, and various Industries spread across India.

News 6: Supply constraints dented coal-biomass mixing


Background

India’s thermal power plant operators were unable to comply with norms that required them to mix coal with a certain proportion of biomass because of inadequate supply chains. (target of replacing 5% of their coal with biomass)

Biomass

Biomass is renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. Biomass continues to be an important fuel in many countries, especially for cooking and heating in developing countries.

Biomass contains stored chemical energy from the sun. Plants produce biomass through photosynthesis. Biomass can be burned directly for heat or converted to renewable liquid and gaseous fuels through various processes.

Biomass sources for energy include:

  • Wood and wood processing wastes—firewood, wood pellets, and wood chips, lumber and furniture mill sawdust and waste, and black liquor from pulp and paper mills
  • Agricultural crops and waste materials—corn, soybeans, sugar cane, switchgrass, woody plants, and algae, and crop and food processing residues, mostly to produce biofuels
  • Biogenic materials in municipal solid waste—paper, cotton, and wool products, and food, yard, and wood wastes
  • Animal manure and human sewage for producing biogas/renewable natural gas

On combustion of the Biomass, energy is released as the sugars are converted back to carbon-di-oxide. Thus energy is harnessed and released in a short time frame, making Biomass a renewable energy source.

Though fossil fuels have also been derived from atmospheric carbon-di-oxide, the time frame is very long – in the order of millions of years as compared to a few years in case of Biomass.

Currently, Biomass contributes 14% of the total energy supply worldwide and 38% of this energy is consumed in developing countries, predominantly in the rural and traditional sectors of the economy.

Biomass Potential in India

India is a tropical country blessed with sunshine and rains and thus offers an ideal environment for Biomass production. Further, the vast agricultural potential, also makes available huge agro-residues to meet the energy needs. With an estimated production of about 460 million tonnes of agricultural waste every year.

As per Ministry of New and Renewable energy, About 32% of the total primary energy use in the country is still derived from biomass and more than 70% of the country’s population depends upon it for its energy needs.


News 7: The Indian-made LCH ‘Prachand’ and its significance


Background

The indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) Prachand, meaning fierce, was formally inducted into the Indian Air Force at the Jodhpur airbase. The multi-role attack helicopter has been customised as per the requirements of the Indian armed forces to operate both in desert terrains and high-altitude sectors.

The LCH is the only attack helicopter in the world that can land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 metres (16,400 ft). It is also capable of firing a range of air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles.

What is the LCH project?

The LCH project can be traced to the 1999 Kargil war when the armed forces felt the need for a dedicated platform capable of operating at high altitudes and delivering precision strikes as the existing attack choppers couldn’t effectively hit targets.

In October 2006, the government sanctioned the design and development of the LCH. The Indian Army joined the programme in December 2013. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) built four LCH prototypes flight-tested them with over 1,600 total flights logging 1,239 flight hours.

The ground run was first carried out in February 2010 and the first prototype ‘TD-1’ took its maiden flight on March 29, 2010, as the crew carried out low-speed, low-altitude checks on the systems.

The Indian Army formally inducted its first Light Combat Helicopter recently.

What are the main features of LCH?

  1. Powered by twin Shakti engines, a collaborative effort of the HAL and France’s Safran company, the LCH is a 5.8-tonne class combat helicopter with potent ground attack and aerial combat capability.
  2. The helicopter can fly at a maximum speed of 288 kmph and has a combat radius of 500 km, which can go up to a service ceiling of 21,000 feet, making it ideal to operate in Siachen.
  3. It incorporates several stealth features such as reduced radar and infra-red signatures, crashworthy features for improved survivability, armoured-protection systems and night attack capability.

How will the LCH give an edge to the armed forces?

  1. The induction of the LCH into the Air Force has been termed as a “big boost” to the combat prowess of the armed forces and a “potent platform to meet the operational requirements of the IAF and the Army”.
  2. The LCH helicopters can be deployed to assume air defence, anti-tank roles in high-altitude, counter-insurgency, and search and rescue operations, and are equipped with advanced technology which can be used to destroy the enemy’s air defence, as per HAL.
  3. It can be deployed to perform Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), bunker busting operations, counter-insurgency operations in the jungle and urban areas and support the ground forces.

News 8: Nobel Prize for Literature


Background

French author Annie Ernaux, known for her deceptively simple novels drawing on personal experience of class and gender, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Part of school syllabi

  1. Her more than 20 books, many of which have been school texts in France for decades, offer one of the most subtle, insightful windows into the social life of modern France.
  2. Personal experiences are the source for all of Ms. Ernaux’s work and she is the pioneer of France’s “autofiction” genre, which gives narrative form to real-life experience.
  3. Above all, Ms. Ernaux’s crystalline prose has excavated her own passage from working-class girl to the literary elite, casting a critical eye on social structures and her own complicated emotions.

News 9: World Bank pares India FY23 growth projection to 6.5%


Background

The World Bank has trimmed its estimate for India’s growth in the current fiscal year (FY22-23) to 6.5%, one percentage point lower than its previous projection in June and compared with the last fiscal year’s 8.7% pace.

The estimate for the current year was revised due to ‘persistent pressures’. The Indian economy is expected to speed up to 7% in the next fiscal year, before settling back down to 6.1% in FY24-25.

World Bank report “Coping with shocks: Migration and the road to resilience”

  • The slowing in India’s growth during the current fiscal year, relative to the previous one, was because most of the COVID recovery happened last year, the report said.
  • The impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, global monetary tightening, high commodity prices and interest rates impacting domestic demand, contributing to this slowing.
  • Manufacturing and services have been expanding in India since January and growing at a rate faster than the rest of the world.
  • With a relaxing of COVID restrictions, economic activity had picked up, as had demand in contact-intensive sectors.
  • Services and construction had expanded the fastest on the production side, the report said, and private demand had grown year on year, but this was largely due to a low base effect from the second quarter of 2021 when the economy was reeling under the delta wave of COVID.

World Bank

  • Established: 1945 (Bretton Woods institution)
  • Headquarters: Washington DC
  • Type: International financial institution
  • Members: 189 countries (India is a member)
  • The World Bank is the collective name for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and International Development Association (IDA), two of five international organizations owned by the World Bank Group.
  • The World Bank provides loans and grants to the governments of low- and middle-income countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects.
  • Mission: 
    • End extreme poverty within a generation and boost shared prosperity
    • To end extreme poverty, the Bank’s goal is to decrease the percentage of people living with less than $1.90 a day to no more than 3 percent by 2030.
    • To promote shared prosperity, the goal is to promote income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population in each country.
  • Reports and Indexes: Ease of Doing business index (Shelved after corruption charges), Human Capital Index, World Development Report

Other important news


Flash floods

  1. Excessive or continuous rainfall over a period of days, or during particular seasons can lead to stagnation of water and cause flooding. Flash floods refer to such a situation but occurring in a much shorter span of time.
  2. For instance, the US’s meteorological agency, the National Weather Service, says flash floods are caused when rainfall creates flooding in less than 6 hours. It adds that flash floods can also be caused by factors apart from rainfall, like when water goes beyond the levels of a dam.
  3. In India, flash floods are often associated with cloudbursts – sudden, intense rainfall in a short period of time.
  4. Himalayan states further face the challenge of overflowing glacial lakes, formed due to the melting of glaciers, and their numbers have been increasing in the last few years.
  5. Flash floods may in the future, begin to take place after wildfires that have been taking place more frequently. This is because wildfires destroy forests and other vegetation, which in turn weakens the soil and makes it less permeable for water to seep through.

 

Chandraprabha sanctuary and Gir lions

Chandraprabha sanctuary in Varanasi has acknowledged that breeding of Gir lions in Chandraprabha sanctuary has failed.

Chandraprabha sanctuary

  1. The Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Chandraprabha, is situated in Chandauli district of Uttar Pradesh.
  2. It is well endowed with beautiful picnic spots, dense forests, and scenic waterfalls like Rajdari, Devdari & Naugarh waterfall that attract tourists every year to its vicinity.
  3. Chandra Prabha Wildlife Sanctuary is situated about 70 kilometres from the historic city of Varanasi.
  4. The Karamnasha River, a tributary of the Ganges, flows through the sanctuary, as does the Chandraprabha River, a tributary of the Karamnasha.
  5. The sanctuary lies within the Lower Gangetic Plains moist deciduous forests ecoregion. Fauna includes leopard, wild boar, Nilgai, Sambar deer, Chinkara and Chital, and many species of birds.

Gir lions

  1. IUCN status: Endangered
  2. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 – Schedule I
  3. CITES status: Appendix I
  4. The Asiatic lion is a population of Panthera leo leo that today survives in the wild only in India.
  5. Since the turn of the 20th century, its range has been restricted to Gir National Park and the surrounding areas in the Indian state of Gujarat. Historically, it inhabited much of the Middle East to northern India.
  6. Gir National Park is the only place in the world outside Africa where a lion can be seen in its natural habitat.
  7. The lions of Gir are a majestic animal, averaging 2.75 metres in length, and with a bigger tail tassle, bushier elbow tufs and prominent belly folds than his African cousin which has larger mane.
  8. The entire forest area of the Gir National Park is dry and deciduous which provides best habitat for Asiatic Lions. As per the new statics of 2015, the entire Saurashtra Region is inhabited by 523 Lions and more than 300 Leopards.
  9. Apart from these two animals the park is a home to two different species of Deer.
  10. The Sambar is counted largest Indian Deer. The Gir forest is also known for the Chowsingha – the world’s only four horned antelope.

Rajasthan will have department of peace and non-violence

Rajasthan is the first state in country to constitute a Department of peace and non-violence

 


 

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