Himalai Celebrating 20th-year celebration, on this eve Himalai extending helping hands to the UPSC-IAS Aspirants of June 2018.
Most important exam oriented Current Affairs Concepts:

1. Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs)

In order to preserve certain regions/areas bestowed with unique plants, animals, terrains Government has declared them as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, etc,. Further, to minimise the impact of urbanisation and other developmental activities, areas adjacent to such protected areas have been declared as Eco-Sensitive Zones.

The National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) 2002-2016 endeavours to protect areas outside the protected area network to prevent isolation/destruction of fragments of bio-diversity. However, eco-sensitive zones are delineated to regulate specific activities on site specific basis. The Environment (protection) Rules, 1986 states that the Central Government can prohibit and restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations like biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants in an area, environmentally compatible land use and proximity to protected areas.

The purpose of declaring eco-sensitive zones around protected areas is for creating some kind of ‘Shock Absorber’ to the protected area. They would also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection. The width of eco-sensitive zone and type of regulation vary from one area to another. However, as a general principle width of eco-sensitive zone could go up to 10 kms around a protected area. In case of places with sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, even area beyond 10 kms width can also be included in the eco-sensitive zone.

The State Governments should emphasize the fact to the public that eco-sensitive zones are not meant to hamper their day-to-day activities, but instead, is meant to protect the precious forests/areas in their locality from any negative impact and also to refine the environment around such protected areas. While some of the activities could be allowed in all the eco-sensitive areas, others will be regulated or prohibited. However, which activity can be regulated or prohibited and to what extent will have to be area specific. For instance, activities which fall under the prohibited category include commercial mining, setting up of saw mills, setting up of industries causing pollution, establishment of major hydro electric projects, discharge of effluent and solid waste into natural water bodies or areas, use or production of any hazardous substances, etc. Similarly, activities like felling of tress, establishment of hotels and resorts, widening of roads, protection of river banks and hill slopes, etc comes under regulated category.

A Zonal Master Plan for the eco-sensitive zone has to be prepared by the State Government within a period of one year from the date of approval by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. The zonal master plan should provide for restoration of denuded areas, conservation of existing water bodies, management of catchment areas, soil and moisture conservation, needs of local community, etc,. Which needs attention. It should also demarcate all the existing and proposed urban settlements, village settlements, types and kinds of forest, agricultural areas, green areas, horticultural areas, lakes, etc,. No change of land use from green uses shall be permitted in the zonal master plan except limited conversion of agricultural lands to meet the residential needs of the existing local residents, improvement of roads and bridges, community buildings, without the prior approval of the state government. Pending preparation of the master plan and approval thereof by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, all new constructions can be allowed only after it is approved by the Monitoring Committee constituted by the Central Government.

The Government today issued the Final Notification for an Eco-Sensitive Zone area of 59.46 sq kms of which 19.25 sq km is forest land and 40.21 sq km is non-forest land in Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai suburb.

2. Pencil Portal to Eliminate Child Labour

The purpose of this portal is to provide a mechanism for both enforcement of the provisions of Child & Adolescent Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 and effective implementation of the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme for rehabilitation of child & adolescent labour.

3. HIMAP

The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is one of the greatest mountain systems in the world, encompassing an area of over 4.3 million km2. Outside of the North and South Poles, the region contains the largest area of permanent ice cover in the world, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the ‘Third Pole’ of the earth. Its terrain encompasses the source of 10 major river systems, 4 global biodiversity spots, 330 important bird areas, and hundreds of mountain peaks over 6,000 masl. The region provides water, ecosystem services, food, energy, and livelihood to 210 million people directly. An additional 1.3 billion people living downstream benefit from its resources indirectly and more than 3 billion people rely on energy produced in the basin catchment area of the Himalayan river systems. The region is also home to some of the most diverse cultures, languages, religions, and traditional knowledge systems in the world. For these reasons, the HKH region is clearly a major global asset, critical to the planet as a whole.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report-4 announced that climate change will be the most prominent force of global change in the modern era and that the HKH region is seen as ‘a data gap’ area, lacking consistent long-term monitoring. The report calls for national, regional and global attention towards filling this data gap. Unfortunately, not much progress has been reported in IPCC 2014 AR-5 on the HKH region in this regard. While initial progress has been made by universities, NGOs, and science organizations in the region, in assembling and consolidating existing data, the information remains too fragmented and incomplete to derive any meaningful conclusions about trends and scenarios. The need for an evidence-based assessment which brings together hundreds of scientists and policy experts persists. A comprehensive assessment could greatly assist in addressing threats, acting on opportunities, and scaling cutting edge approaches. At the same time, looking to the success of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a regularized system of monitoring which can generate powerful data about the key trends and scenarios in the region is needed.

4. Divyang Sarathi

This mobile application aims at providing all relevant information pertaining to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, including its various acts, rules, regulations and guidelines, schemes, information about the various outreach institutions, employment opportunities, and the disability market in an accessible format. This application has been developed by the two Assistant Secretaries (Shri Anunaya Jha and Smt. B. Susheela) in the DEPwD.

According to the Census 2011, there are over 2.68 crore ‘Divyangjans’ in India which constitute more than 2.2% of the population. The mobile application ‘Divyang Sarathi’ is compliant with the principles of UNCRPD for Universal Access and the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The Act mandates that all information to be made available in an accessible form. The application is also an integral part of the ICT component of the Accessible India Campaign launched by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on 3rd December, 2015.

The unique features of the mobile application ‘Divyang Sarathi’ are its audio notes (text-to-voice conversion software) embedded in the application which converts the written information into an audio file as well as the adjustable font size which can be altered as per the user’s requirement. The mobile application will certainly have a wide outreach as it has been developed bilingually i.e., the information is available in Hindi as well as English.

5. Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT)

The existing provisions of section 115JB of the Income-tax Act, 1961 (‘the Act’), inter alia, provide, that, for the purposes of levy of Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) in case of a company, the amount of loss brought forward or unabsorbed depreciation, whichever is less as per books of account shall be reduced from the book profit.

In this regard, representations have been received from various stakeholders that the companies against whom an application for corporate insolvency resolution process has been admitted by the Adjudicating Authority under section 7 or section 9 or section 10 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (‘the IBC’), are facing hardship due to restriction in allowance of brought forward loss for computation of book profit under section 115JB of the Act.

With a view to minimize the genuine hardship faced by such companies, it has been decided, that, with effect from Assessment Year 2018-19 (i.e. Financial Year 2017-18), in case of a company, against whom an application for corporate insolvency resolution process has been admitted by the Adjudicating Authority under section 7 or section 9 or section 10 of the IBC, the amount of total loss brought forward (including unabsorbed depreciation) shall be allowed to be reduced from the book profit for the purposes of levy of MAT under section 115JB of the Act.

6. INS Tarasa, a Water Jet Fast Attack Craft

INS Tarasa is the fourth and last of the follow-on Water Jet FAC’s built by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata. These ships are an upgrade of the Car Nicobar class Fast Attack Crafts with the Indian Navy, which were also indigenously designed and built by GRSE, Kolkata.

INS Tarasa is 50 m long and powered by three water jets which give it speeds of over 35 knots (65 kmph). The ship is armed with a 30 mm main gun indigenously built, and a number of light, medium and heavy machine guns to undertake costal defence operations. The ship is an ideal platform for missions like coastal and off-shore surveillance, EEZ Patrol, law enforcement as well as non-military missions such as Search and Rescue, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief. The commissioning Commanding Officer of the ship is Lieutenant Commander Praveen Kumar.

This is the second ship of the Indian Navy to be named INS Tarasa. The first INS Tarasa was in service of the Navy from 1999 to 2014. She was gifted to Seychelles Coast Guard as a symbol of India’s partnership with friendly maritime nation in IOR. The new INS Tarasa will be based at Mumbai under the operational control of Western Naval Command.

7. High-Level Political Forum

The establishment of the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) was mandated in 2012 by the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), “The Future We Want”.

The Forum meets annually under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council for eight days, including a three-day ministerial segment and every four years at the level of Heads of State and Government under the auspices of the General Assembly for two days.

The HLPF is the main United Nations platform on sustainable development and it has a central role in the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the global level. General Assembly resolution 70/299 provides further guidance on the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

The Forum adopts inter governmentally negotiated political declarations.
As part of its follow-up and review mechanisms, the 2030 Agenda encourages member states to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven” (paragraph 79). These national reviews are expected to serve as a basis for the regular reviews by the HLPF. As stipulated in paragraph 84 of the 2030 Agenda, regular reviews by the HLPF are to be voluntary, state-led, undertaken by both developed and developing countries, and shall provide a platform for partnerships, including through the participation of major groups and other relevant stakeholders.

8. Mars Orbiter Mission

Marking India’s first venture into the interplanetary space, MOM will explore and observe Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and the Martian atmosphere. Further, a specific search for methane in the Martian atmosphere will provide information about the possibility or the past existence of life on the planet.

The enormous distances involved in interplanetary missions present a demanding challenge; developing and mastering the technologies essential for these missions will open endless possibilities for space exploration. After leaving Earth, the Orbiter will have to endure the Interplanetary space for 300 days before Mars capture. Apart from deep space communications and navigation-guidance-control capabilities, the mission will require autonomy at the spacecraft end to handle contingencies.

9. Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana “Saubhagya”

The objective of the ‘Saubhagya’ is to provide energy access to all by last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining un-electrified households in rural as well as urban areas to achieve universal household.

The electricity connection to households include release of electricity connections by drawing a service cable from the nearest electricity pole to the household premise, installation of energy meter, wiring for a single light point with LED bulb and a mobile charging point. In case the electricity pole is not available nearby from household for drawing service cable, the erection of additional pole along with conductor and associated accessories shall also be covered under the scheme.

Poor households would be provided electricity connections free of cost. Other households would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs.500 only which shall be recovered by the DISCOMs/Power Departments in ten (10) installments along with electricity bills.
There is no provision in the scheme to provide free power to any category of consumers. The cost of electricity consumption shall have to be paid by the respective consumers as per prevailing tariff of the DISCOM/Power Deptt.

‘24×7 Power for All’ is a joint initiative with the states covering all segments of power sector i.e. Power generation, transmission and distribution, energy efficiency, health of Discom etc. to finalise State/UT specific roadmap and action plan to ensure 24×7 power for all in consultation with States/UTs. The Power for All documents contain details of various interventions required across the value chain of power sector.
Providing connectivity to all households is a prerequisite to ensure 24×7 power supply. Saubhagya is a schematic support to address the issue of energy access.

Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) envisage creation of basic electricity infrastructure in villages / habitations, strengthening & augmentation of existing infrastructure, metering of existing feeders / distribution transformers / consumers to improve quality and reliability of power supply in rural areas. Besides this, last mile connectivity and free electricity connections are also provided to BPL households only identified by the States as per their list. However, in villages which are electrified in past for a long period, many households do not have electricity connections for many reasons. Some of the really poor households do not have BPL cards but these households are not capable of paying applicable initial connection charges. There is also lack of awareness as to how to get connection or taking connection is not an easy task for illiterate people. There may not be electricity pole nearby and the cost of erection of additional pole, conductor is also chargeable from the households for obtaining a connection.

Similarly in urban areas, Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) provides for creation of necessary infrastructure to provide electricity access but some households are not yet connected mainly on account of their economic condition as they are not capable of paying the initial connection charges.

Therefore, Soubhagya has been launched to plug such gaps and comprehensively address the issues of entry barrier, last mile connectivity and release of electricity connections to all un-electrified households in rural and urban areas.

The cost of Saubhagya scheme i.e. Rs. 16,320 crore is over and above the investment being made under DDUGJY.

Projects under the scheme would be sanctioned based on the Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) to be submitted by the States. There is no upfront allocation of fund under the scheme.
Project proposals shall be prepared by the State DISCOMs / Power Deptt. and sanctioned by an inter-ministerial Monitoring Committee headed by Secretary (Power), GOI. The electrification works under the sanctioned projects shall be executed by respective DISCOMs/Power Deptt. through turnkey contractors or departmentally or through other suitable agencies capable of doing this work as per norms.

10. Icescape

Impacts of Climate on the Eco-Systems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment (ICESCAPE) is a multi-year NASA shipborne project. The bulk of the research will take place in the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea.

The Arctic sea ice cover is in decline. The retreat of the summer ice cover, a general thinning, and a transition to a younger, a more vulnerable ice pack have been well documented. Melt seasons are starting earlier and lasting longer. These changes can profoundly impact the physical, biological, and geochemical state of the Arctic Ocean region. Climate models project that changes in the ice cover may accelerate in the future, with a possible transition to ice free summers later this century. These changes are quite pronounced in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea and have consequences for the Arctic Ocean ecosystem, potentially affecting everything from sea ice algae to polar bears.
The central science question of this program is, “What is the impact of climate change (natural and anthropogenic) on the biogeochemistry and ecology of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas?” While both of these regions are experiencing significant changes in the ice cover, their biogeochemical response will likely be quite different due to their distinct physical, chemical, and biological differences.

ICESCAPE will pursue the above central science question and associated issues through an interdisciplinary, cross cutting approach integrating field expeditions, modeling, and satellite remote sensing. Central to the success of this program is a quantitative and reliable determination of chemical and biological fluxes to and from open water, ice and snow surfaces, as a function of relevant environmental conditions such as the nature of the surfaces. This will be pursued in ways that couple remotely sensed information to that obtained via state-of-the-art chemical, physical and biological sensors located in water, on or under ice, and in the atmosphere. Assimilation and synthesis of data will benefit from coupled atmosphere, biology/ecology, ocean, and sea ice linked modeling.

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