CURRENT AFFAIRS 21st Dec 2017

1 . Cabinet approves Establishing India’s First National Rail and Transportation University at Vadodara 

The Union Cabinet has approved the Ministry of Railways’ transformative initiative to set up the first ever National Rail and Transport University (NRTU) in Vadodara to skill its human resources and build capability.

This innovative idea will be a catalyst for transformation of rail and transport sector towards New India.As Indian Railways is set to embark on ambitious projects such as High Speed Trains (popularly known as bullet train), massive infrastructure modernisation, Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs), highest focus on safety etc., Indian Railways will require high level of proficiency and skills.

Further, factors such as unprecedented growth in the transportation sector in India, increased requirement of qualified manpower and upgradation of skills and capability required to drive the transformation of Indian Railways have necessitated a world-class training hub.

 

2 . NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR)
  • ISRO and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)/ NASA are jointly working on the development of Dual Frequency (L&S band) Synthetic Aperture Radar Imaging Satellite named as NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR).
  • The L-band SAR is being developed by JPL/NASA, while ISRO is developing S-band SAR.
  • The launch year of the mission is 2020.

PURPOSE

  • The L & S band microwave data obtained from this satellite will be useful for variety of application, which include natural resources mapping & monitoring; estimating agricultural biomass over full duration of crop cycle; assessing soil moisture; monitoring of floods and oil slicks; coastal erosion, coastline changes & variation of winds in coastal waters; assessment of mangroves; surface deformation studies,  etc.
  • Identifying crevasses in the glaciers hidden by fresh snow, where human movement takes place
  • Identifying the snowpack parameters as an input in Avalanche forecasts
  • Studying Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) hazards
  • Identifying inundated area due to floods/ cyclones.

 

3 . Fall in Growth of Manufacturing Sector during 2017-18 April-October
  • The performance of manufacturing sector as per the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) during last two years and the current year is –

2015-16 : 2.8

2016-17  : 4.4

2017-18*(April-October)  :  2.1

  • Overall performance of manufacturing sector is an interplay of several factors such as domestic demand, demand for exports, level of investment and prevailing prices.

STEPS  TAKEN  BY  GOVERNMENT  TO  BOOST  MANUFACTURING  SECTOR

  • ‘Make in India’ programme has been launched which aims at making India a global hub for manufacturing, research & innovation and integral part of the global supply chain.
  • Several steps to boost domestic manufacturing are being taken as part of schemes such as ‘Startup India’, ‘Ease of Doing Business’, Modified Industrial Infrastructure Upgradation Scheme, Business Reform Action Plan, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy etc. Further, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy and procedures have been simplified and liberalized progressively.

 

4 . Shift in Manufacturing and Export Strategy 
  • The Government has recently conducted the mid-term review of the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP)and released revised policy on 5th December 2017.
  • The revised FTP focuses on the goal of-
  1. exploring new markets and new products as well as on increasing India’s share in the traditional markets and products
  2. leveraging benefits of GST by exporters
  3. close monitoring of export performances and taking immediate corrective measures based on state-of-the-art data analysis
  4. increasing ease of trading across borders
  5. increasing the realisations from Indian agriculture based exports and promoting exports from MSMEs and labour intensive sectors to increase employment opportunities for youth.
  • Through its foreign trade policy, government envisages employment creation in both manufacturing and services; production of zero defect products with a focus on quality and standards along with a focus on higher value addition and technology infusion.

 

5 . Important trade stats given by government in Parliament recently 
  • India’s merchandise exports registered a positive growth of 5.17% during 2016-17 over 2015-16 and 12.01% during 2017-18 (Apr-Nov) over 2016-17 (Apr-Nov).
  • India’s merchandise trade deficit has been declining for last two years.
  • The names of the top 3 countries/SAR with which India has registered favourable trade balance during the last three years are as follows:

2014-15 :  1 . U S A    2 . Hong Kong    3 . U A E

2015-16 :   1 . U S A     2 . U A E    3 .   Hong Kong

2016-17  :  1 .  U S A       2 .  U A E   3 . Bangladesh

  • Sectors in which India has favourable trade balance during the last three years are as follows:

2014-15 :  1 . Textile & Allied Products      2 . Transport Equipments          3 . Agricultural & Allied Products

2015-16 :  1 . Textile & Allied Products   2 . Transport Equipments            3 . Marine Products

2016-17  :  1 . Textile & Allied Products   2 . Marine Products                        3 . Leather & Leather Manufactures

 

6 . 39 countries identified under Project ‘Mausam’ 
  • So far  39 countries have been identified under Project ‘Mausam’ of Ministry of Culture
  • Series of lectures and workshop has been organized in these countries.
  • Indian Mission abroad in these countries have been requested to identify appropriate authority/experts for dialogue and to identify potential sites for preparing Tentative List proposal.

WHAT  IS  PROJECT  MAUSAM ? 

  • Project ‘Mausam’ is the initiative of Ministry of Culture to be implemented by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as the nodal agency with research support of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) and National Museum as associate bodies.
  • This project aims to explore the multi-faceted Indian Ocean ‘world’ – collating archaeological and historical research in order to document the diversity of cultural, commercial and religious interactions in the Indian Ocean.
  • The main objective of the project is to inscribe places and sites identified under Project Mausam as trans-national nomination for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

 

7 . Exercise  Naseem-Al-Bahr  between  Oman  and  India
  • Indian Naval Ships Trikand and Teg are deployed to Oman for bilateral exercise ‘Naseem Al Bahr’ or ‘Sea Breeze’.
  • This exercise is the 11th edition and has been a biennial feature since 1993.

BACKGROUND

  • India has an ancient maritime tradition and maritime interaction with Oman which dates back to over 4000 years B.C.
  • Bilateral relation between Indian and Oman were formally established with signing of a 1953 Indo-Oman Treaty of friendship, Navigation and Commerce, a first between India and an Arab country.
  • Since then, Naval exercises have contributed to strengthening of bilateral ties between India and Sultanate of Oman.
  • The first exercise Indian Navy with Royal Navy of Oman was conducted in 1993 and this year marks 24 years of Indian Navy -Royal Navy of Oman bilateral exercises.
  • The signing of an MoU on Defence Cooperation in Dec 2005 and subsequent establishment of the Joint Military Cooperation in Mar 2006 has set the foundation for increased defence cooperation.
  • The naval cooperation between the countries has gradually increased in scope and scale.

 

7 . India signs Financing Agreement with the World Bank for US$ 125 Million for “Strive Project.”

  • A Financing Agreement for IDA Credit of USD 125 million (equivalent) for the “Skills Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement Operation (STRIVE) Project” was signed by the Government of India with the World Bank yesterday.
  • The Objective of the project is to improve access to quality and market-driven vocational training and apprenticeships.
  • The result areas for the project include Improved Performance of Industrial Training Institutes; Increased Capacities of State Governments to Support Industrial Training Institutes and Apprenticeship Training; Improved Teaching and Learning; and Improved and Broadened Apprenticeship Training.
  • The closing date for the project is 30th November, 2022.