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Current Affairs 19 January 2024

  1. Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Schemes
  2. Supreme Court’s Assertion on AMU’s Minority Status
  3. Defence Technology Council
  4. Gut Microbiota
  5. One Vehicle, One FASTag’ initiative
  6. African dream herb


Context:

The central government has disbursed incentive amount of Rs 4,415 crore under its flagship Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes for as many as eight sectors.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme Update
  2. Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme Overview
  3. Performance Evaluation of PLI Schemes

Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme Update:

  • The central government has released Rs 4,415 crore under the PLI schemes across eight sectors until October this fiscal year.
  • Disbursements for FY24 reached Rs 1,515 crore, compared to Rs 2,900 crore in the previous fiscal.
  • The government aims to achieve a total disbursal of Rs 11,000 crore by the end of this fiscal.
  • Over 6.78 lakh jobs, both direct and indirect, have been generated through the PLI schemes.
  • With 746 approved applications in 14 sectors, the expected investment stands at over Rs 3 lakh crore.
  • Notably, 176 MSMEs are among the PLI beneficiaries, especially in sectors like pharma and telecom.

Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme Overview:

  • The PLI Scheme, or Production Linked Incentive Scheme, is a government initiative in India.
  • It operates as a performance-linked incentive, offering companies incentives based on incremental sales from domestically manufactured products.
  • The primary goals include boosting the manufacturing sector and reducing dependence on imports.
  • The scheme has the potential to significantly enhance production, employment, and overall economic growth over the next few years.
  • In 2021, the government announced PLI schemes worth Rs 1.97 lakh crore for 13 key sectors, spanning auto components, electronics, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and more.
  • These schemes are at various stages of implementation, with the aim of positively impacting the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) ecosystem in the country.

Performance Evaluation of PLI Schemes:

Positive Outcomes:
  • Mobile Handset Exports: India doubled the value of mobile handset exports in FY22 to Rs 45,000 crore compared to FY21. FY23 estimates indicate further growth, with an expected export value of Rs 90,000 crore.
  • Pharma Industry: India is now manufacturing 35 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) domestically, reducing reliance on imports and showcasing self-sufficiency.
Export Achievements:
  • PLI schemes have contributed to exports surpassing Rs 3.2 lakh crore, with notable contributions from electronics, pharma, food processing, and telecom sectors.
Challenges and Slow Implementation:
  • Implementation Challenges: The implementation of PLI schemes has been slow, and certain large-ticket industries have been slow to adopt or commence major activities under the scheme.
  • Incentive Payouts: The government spent only Rs 10 crore in incentive payouts in 2021-22 for mobile handsets, white goods, and food processing combined. This increased to Rs 2,874 crore in 2022-23.
  • Job Creation: The slow start has resulted in lower job creation than projected. Out of the projected 6 million new jobs over seven years, only around 300,000 jobs (5% of the total) were created between 2020 and early-2023 through various PLIs.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Supreme Court reaffirms that an educational institution maintains its minority status despite statutory regulation of its administration. The Centre clarified that minority educational institutions, including Aligarh Muslim University, are not obligated to follow the reservation policy outlined in the Central Educational Institute (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Dispute over Aligarh Muslim University’s Minority Character
  2. Persisting Dispute Over AMU’s Minority Status
  3. Constitutional and Statutory Safeguards for Minority Communities in India

Dispute over Aligarh Muslim University’s Minority Character

Establishment and University Status:

  • Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) traces its origins to the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MOA) College, founded by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in 1875.
  • In 1920, through an Act of the Indian Legislative Council, MOA College attained university status and became Aligarh Muslim University.

Origin of Dispute:

  • Legal challenges emerged in 1967 regarding amendments to the AMU Act of 1920 made in 1951 and 1965.
  • Changes allowed non-Muslim participation in the University Court and reduced its authority while enhancing the powers of the Executive Council.

Supreme Court’s Ruling (1967):

  • The Supreme Court ruled that, despite Muslim initiatives in founding AMU, its central status prevented it from being considered a minority institution.
  • The Court emphasized that the Act’s establishment, aiming for government recognition of degrees, wasn’t solely the outcome of Muslim minority efforts.

Questioning Minority Character:

  • The SC’s 1967 ruling challenged the perception of AMU’s minority character, asserting that its establishment and administration were not exclusively rooted in the Muslim minority’s efforts.
  • The university attained “institution of national importance” status through the AMU Act of 1981, reinforcing its significance.

Persisting Dispute Over AMU’s Minority Status

Historical Background and Amendments:

  • The 1967 SC ruling led to protests, and in 1981, an amendment confirmed AMU’s minority status through specific additions to the AMU Act.
  • In 2005, the Allahabad High Court nullified the reservation of medical seats for Muslims, citing the SC’s previous ruling.

Legal Challenges and Withdrawal of Appeal (2006-2019):

  • In 2006, petitions contested the High Court decision, and in 2016, the Union government withdrew its appeal, expressing concerns about a minority institution in a secular state.
  • In 2019, the matter was referred to a seven-judge Bench by the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court’s Ongoing Observations:
  • The ongoing case emphasizes that statutory regulation doesn’t diminish an institution’s minority status, clarifying that Article 30 doesn’t mandate exclusive administration by the minority community.
  • A minority institution can have a secular administration and offer non-religious courses, admitting students from diverse communities.
  • The central question is whether an institution qualifies as a minority educational institution based on its founders’ minority status.
  • The presence of majority community office-bearers doesn’t necessarily dilute the institution’s minority character.

Constitutional and Statutory Safeguards for Minority Communities in India

Article 29:

  • Grants the right to conserve distinct language, script, or culture for any section of citizens, including both religious and linguistic minorities.

Article 30 (1):

  • Empowers religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.
  • Aims to foster growth without ghettoizing minorities, ensuring nondiscrimination in government aid based on minority status.

Article 25:

  • Protects freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice, and propagate religion.

Article 26:

  • Grants every religious denomination the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.

Article 27:

  • Ensures freedom from compelled payment of taxes for promoting any particular religion.

Article 28:

  • Provides freedom regarding attendance at religious instruction or worship in certain educational institutions.
National Commission for Minorities (NCM):
  • Established in 1992 under the NCM Act, it advises governments on the welfare of minority communities.
  • Initially covered Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis; Jains were later added in 2014.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

An expert committee led by former principal scientific advisor Prof K Vijay Raghavan proposes the creation of a top body, the Defence Technology Council. The Defence Technology Council should be responsible for defining the nation’s defence technology roadmap and overseeing major projects and their execution.

Relevance:

GS III: Defence

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Context and Recommendations of the Vijay Raghavan Committee on DRDO
  2. About the Defence Technology Council and Its Secretariat

Context and Recommendations of the Vijay Raghavan Committee on DRDO:

  • The Vijay Raghavan Committee was constituted by the government to review the functioning of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • The decision to review DRDO’s functioning was prompted by significant delays in several projects, with concerns raised by parliamentary committees and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
  • Concerns Raised:
  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence highlighted that 23 out of 55 mission mode projects faced delays.
  • The CAG, in 2022, reported that 119 out of 178 scrutinized projects did not adhere to their proposed timelines.
  • Extensions were attributed to factors like alterations in design specifications, delays in user trials, and supply order placements.
Recommendations of the Committee:

Focus on Research and Development:

  • DRDO should concentrate on its original mandate of research and development for defence.
  • It should refrain from involvement in productization, production cycles, and product management, which are more suitable for the private sector.

Avoiding Unnecessary Technology Engagement:

  • DRDO should avoid engaging in technologies that are not essential for its objectives. For instance, drone development might not be a core area for DRDO.
  • The committee suggests identifying expertise within India and internationally for various technologies.

Role of Defence Technology Council:

  • The Defence Technology Council should play a crucial role in identifying the right players for specific defence technologies.
  • It would facilitate collaboration with external expertise and contribute to efficient technology solutions.

About the Defence Technology Council and Its Secretariat:

Defence Technology Council:
  • The Defence Technology Council is a high-level body proposed by the Vijay Raghavan committee.
  • It is chaired by the Prime Minister, with the Defence Minister and the National Security Advisor serving as Vice Presidents.
  • The executive committee is chaired by the Chief of Defence Staff.
  • Members include the Principal Scientific Advisor, three service chiefs, vice chiefs, and representation from academia and industry (two members each).
Secretariat of the Defence Technology Council:
  • The committee recommends the creation of a separate department under the Defence Ministry called the Department of Defence Science, Technology, and Innovation.
  • The department will be led by a technocrat and will have the following responsibilities:
    • Promoting defence research and development in academia and start-ups.
    • Serving as the secretariat for the Defence Technology Council.
    • Operating labs for testing and certification, a function currently performed by DRDO.
    • Drawing scientists from DRDO and academia to build expertise and conduct background research for the Defence Technology Council.
  • The department will play a crucial role in supporting decision-making on technology production by providing necessary research and knowledge.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Scientists are finding that the gut microbiota may be linked to heart health, some cancers, and even the colour of urine.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

About Gut Microbiota:

  • Definition: Refers to trillions of microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites residing in the human gut.
  • Historical Term: Previously known as the microflora of the gut.
  • Microbiome: The environment in which these microbes live.
Establishment of Human Gut Microbiota:
  • Inheritance: Infants acquire initial gut microbes during vaginal delivery or breastfeeding.
  • Subsequent Introduction: Diet and environmental exposures introduce new microbes.
Functions of Gut Microbiota:
  • Harvesting energy from digested food.
  • Protection against pathogens.
  • Regulation of immune function.
  • Strengthening biochemical barriers of the gut and intestine.
Impact of Microbiota Composition:
  • Changes can affect bodily functions.
  • Plays a role in various diseases.
Diseases Associated:
  • Infections: Harmful bacteria can cause food poisoning and gastrointestinal diseases leading to diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD): Research links bacterial populations to conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Metabolic Conditions: Low microbial diversity associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
  • Antibiotic Impact: Disturbance by antibiotics can lead to diseases, including antibiotic-resistant infections.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has launched the ‘One Vehicle, One FASTag’ initiative.

Relevance:

GS II: Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the ‘One Vehicle, One FASTag’ Initiative:
  2. Key Points about FASTag

About the ‘One Vehicle, One FASTag’ Initiative:

  • Objective: Enhance Electronic Toll Collection efficiency and facilitate seamless movement at Toll Plazas.
  • KYC Process: Users urged to complete Know Your Customer (KYC) process by January 31 to avoid deactivation.
  • Discouraging Practices: Aims to discourage using a single FASTag for multiple vehicles or linking multiple FASTags to a particular vehicle.
  • Background: Introduced in response to reports of multiple FASTags issued for a single vehicle and issuance without KYC, violating RBI’s mandate.

Key Points about FASTag:

  • Technology: Utilizes Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for toll payments while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Functionality: RFID passive tag linked to the customer’s prepaid or savings/current account, allowing toll payments without stopping.
  • Affixation: Placed on the vehicle’s windscreen and vehicle-specific; cannot be transferred to another vehicle.
  • Purchase: Available from National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) Member Banks.
  • Recharge: If linked to a prepaid account, requires periodic recharging/top-up based on customer usage.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

A dying traditional game, given a fresh lease of life at the ongoing Karbi Youth Festival (KYF) in central Assam’s Karbi Anglong district, has fuelled a drive for conserving a creeper known as the African dream herb.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. African Dream Herb Overview
  2. Hambi Kepathu Tradition

African Dream Herb Overview:

  • Perennial climbing vine used by African traditional healers for inducing vivid dreams.
  • Common names: Giant sea bean, African dream herb, snuff box, and Entada rheedii.
  • Indigenous to Africa, Asia, Australia, and Madagascar, growing in tropical lowlands and river banks.
Uses:
  • Paste made from leaves, bark, and roots for wound cleaning, burn treatment, and healing jaundice.
  • Tea from the whole plant to improve blood circulation and address stroke after-effects.
  • Bark used for treating diarrhea, dysentery, and parasitic infections.
  • Dark brown spherical seeds, almost kneecap-sized, used in the traditional Karbi game ‘Hambi Kepathu.’

Hambi Kepathu Tradition:

  • Traditional male-only game associated with the Karbi community.
  • Played on three rectangular courts by teams of three members each.
  • Involves placing a ‘hambi’ (glazed creeper seed) vertically on the midpoint of the boundary line for opponents to hit.
  • Named after a Karbi sister-brother duo, part of traditional Karbi games alongside ‘Pholong,’ ‘Thengtom Langvek,’ and ‘Kengdongdang.’

-Source: The Hindu


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