Current Affairs, 24 March 2020
- April 13, 2020
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- National Supercomputing Mission
- The 2020-21 is an important year for India’s National Supercomputing Mission (NSM). The mission was set up to provide the country with supercomputing infrastructure to meet the increasing computational demands of academia, researchers, MSMEs, and startups by creating the capability design, manufacturing, of supercomputers indigenously in India.
- A first of its kind attempt to boost the country’s computing power, the National Super Computing Mission is steered jointly by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) and Department of Science and Technology (DST) and implemented by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
- The target of the mission was set to establish a network of supercomputers ranging from a few Tera Flops (TF) to Hundreds of Tera Flops (TF) and three systems with greater than or equal to 3 Peta Flops (PF) in academic and research institutions of National importance across the country by 2022. This network of Supercomputers envisaging a total of 15-20 PF was approved in 2015 and was later revised to a total of 45 PF (45000 TFs), a jump of 6 times more compute power within the same cost and capable of solving large and complex computational problems.
- With the revised plan in place, the first supercomputer assembled indigenously, called Param Shivay, was installed in IIT (BHU) and was inaugurated by the Prime Minister. Similar systems Param Shakti and Param Brahma were installed at IIT-Kharagpur and IISER, Pune. They are equipped with applications from domains like Weather and Climate, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Bioinformatics, and Material science.
- Plans are afoot to install three more supercomputers by April 2020, one each at IIT-Kanpur, JN Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru, and IIT-Hyderabad. This will ramp up the supercomputing facility to 6 PF.
- 11 new systems are likely to be set up in different IITs, NITs, National Labs, and IISERs across India by December this year, which will have many sub-systems manufactured and microprocessors designed in India which will bring in a cumulative capacity of 10.4 petaflops.
- Spreading out the reach to the North-East region of the country, 8 systems with a total Compute Power of 16 PF are being commissioned. 5 indigenously designed systems with three 3 PF computing power will be installed at IIT-Mumbai, IIT-Chennai and Inter-University Accelerator Centre (IUAC) at Delhi with NKN as its backbone. It also includes an indigenously build 20 PF system at C-DAC, Pune, and a 100 PF Artificial Intelligence supercomputing system. One midlevel 650 TFs system is also to be installed at C-DAC Bengaluru to provide consultancy to Start-ups, SSIs & MSMEs.
- Geared to provide Supercomputing facility to about 60-70 institutions Nation-wide and more than thousands of active Researchers, Academicians, and so on, NSM has gathered momentum and is moving fast not only towards creating a computer infrastructure for the country but also to build capacity of the country to develop the next generation of supercomputer experts.
- Modernisation of OFB
- Modernisation of Ordnance Factories has been carried out in the last decade by procurement of state-of-the-art machines, as per the Comprehensive Modernization Plan for the XIth and XIIthfive-year Plan prepared by OFB, leading to induction of new and modern technologies available globally.
- To keep pace with the contemporary manufacturing technologies, OFB now prepares an annual investment plan towards modernization of its existing Plant and Machineries and other infrastructure.
- The main technologies which have been upgraded/inducted in the last decade in OFB are cited below:-
- CNC 5 Axis Machines
- Laser and Water Jet Cutting Machines
- Hull Machining Centre
- Robotic Welding
- Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS)
- Cold Swaging
- Radial Forging Plant
- Electro-Slag Refining (ESR)
- Natural Gas (NG) Furnaces
- Co-ordinate Measuring Machine (CMM)
- Digitally Controlled Strength Testing Machine
- HMX Plant
- Auto-frettage Plant
- Universal Tensile Testing Machine
- EDM Wire Cut Machine
- Heavy Duty Extrusion Press
- OFB has been making sincere endeavour to train and re-skill its employees to meet the requirement of changing environment. The employees of various Ordnance Factories are imparted training on the operation and maintenance of the machines with contemporary indigenous technology being procured against modernization plan of OFB.
- In addition, OFB has planned for training its suitably qualified Industrial Employees in new digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, data analysis and additive manufacturing, which collectively comprise what is referred to as Industry 4.0.
- OFB is also developing an internal repository of trainers among suitably qualified staff and officers with the help of premier institutions to impart training to Industrial Employees on these technologies. OFB has recently signed an MoU with Directorate General of Training, Ministry of Skill Development And Entrepreneurship, New Delhi on 11.2.2020 for carrying out re-skilling in the selected trades to the level prescribed under National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF).
The Government has taken a number of steps to strengthen the functioning of OFB, such as:
- OFB has been delegated with the enhanced financial powers for Revenue and Capital procurement in September, 2016.
- OFB has been granted Approval-in-Principle by the Government for Capital procurement of Plant and Machinery for up-gradation and modernisation with estimated cost of about Rs. 1727 Crores since September, 2016.
- To streamline the purchase process of OFB, Procurement Manual – 2018 (Stores Procurement) has been approved and has come into effect from September, 2018.
- Towards ease of doing business, revised Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for vendor registration by OFB has been formulated in January, 2019, thereby making vendor registration process in OFB simplified and more business friendly.
- OFB has been geared up to focus on the export market and adequate thrust has been given to export of Arms and Ammunition by way of re-structuring export governance in OFB. To provide flexibility to OFB to bid in export enquiry in a time bound manner, powers have been delegated to Member/OFB (in March, 2019) to bid in export enquiry provided the bidding cost covers the cost of production.
- Modernisation of Defence Industry
The following steps have been taken by the government which would help in bringing in critical technologies and modernize the Defence Industry in the country:-
- Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) has been revised in 2016 wherein specific provisions have been introduced such as ‘Buy Indian Designed Developed and Manufactured (IDDM)’ for stimulating growth of the domestic defence industry.
- Government has notified the ‘Strategic Partnership (SP)’ Model which envisages establishment of long-term strategic partnerships with Indian entities through a transparent and competitive process, wherein they would tie up with global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to seek technology transfers to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains.
- ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ category of procurement under DPP-2016 provides for initial procurement of equipment in Fully Formed (FF) state in quantities as considered necessary from an Indian vendor engaged in a tie-up with a foreign OEM, followed by indigenous production in a phased manner involving Transfer of Technology (ToT) of critical technologies.
- ‘Buy & Make’ category of procurement under DPP-2016 provides for initial procurement of equipment in Fully Formed (FF) state from a foreign vendor, in quantities as considered necessary, followed by indigenous production through an Indian Production Agency (PA), in a phased manner involving Transfer of Technology (ToT) of critical technologies.
- Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy has been revised and under the revised policy, FDI is allowed under automatic route upto 49% and beyond 49% through Government route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded.
In addition to above, following initiatives and schemes have been initiated to contribute toward modernization of Defence Industry:-
- Mission Raksha Gyanshakti: Mission Raksha Gyanshakti was launched in 2018-19, with the objective of creating greater Intellectual Property in Defence Production Ecosystem.
- Artificial Intelligence in Defence: Creation of Defence Artificial Intelligence Project Agency(DAIPA) was done in March, 2019 for greater thrust on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Defence, formulation of an AI roadmap for each Defence PSU and OFB to develop AI-enable products and insertion of 3 percent points in MoU with Defence PSUs for AI products being developed.
- Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX): The objective of iDEX is bringing startups to innovate, develop technology and solve problems related to defence and aerospace. The initiative is being implemented by Defence Innovation Organization (DIO), a Section 8 company founded by BEL and HAL. DIO has initiated activities in 2018/ 2019, running Defence India Startup Challenges (DISCs), and outreach activities to activate the Indian startup ecosystem for defence.
In May, 2001, the Defence Industry Sector, which was hitherto reserved for the public sector, was opened upto 100% for Indian private sector participation, with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) up to 26% both subject to Licensing. Further, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce & Industry has allowed FDI under automatic route upto 49% and above 49% through Government route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded. Till date, 43 FDI proposals/ Joint ventures have been approved for manufacture of various defence equipment, both in public and private sector. Till February, 2020, Government has issued 464 licenses to Indian Companies for manufacturing of a wide range of defence items.
- Institutes set up for Defence Products Manufacturing
- One approval for 100% FDI inflow has been given by till date. Government has issued 464 licenses till February, 2020 for manufacture of a wide range of defence items to Indian companies, out of which a total of 238 licenses have been issued since the launch of the ‘Make in India’.
- Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on “Mutual Cooperation in Joint Manufacturing of Spares, components, Aggregates and other material related to Russian/Soviet origin Arms and Defence Equipment” was signed during the 20th India-Russia Bilateral Summit held at Vladivostok on 04.09.2019.
- Presently, 28 MoUs have been signed with Russian companies for manufacturing of spare parts in India.
- Defence export of the country
Various reforms/steps have been taken to enhance Defence exports. These reforms have provided a big boost to defence exports in the recent times. The authorisation for defence exports in the country have grown seven folds in the last two years. The steps taken to promote defence exports are as follows:-
- Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (SCOMET) Category 6 titled “Munitions List” that was hitherto “Reserved” has been populated and Military Stores list notified vide Notification No.115(RE-2013)/2009-2014 dated 13th March, 2015 stands rescinded.
- The Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) vide Public Notice No. 4/2015-20 dated 24th April, 2017, notified Department of Defence Production (DDP) as the Licensing Authority for export items in Category 6 of SCOMET. The export of items specified in Category 6 (Munitions List) except those covered under Notes 2 & 3 of Commodity Identification Note (CIN) of the SCOMET is now governed by the Standard Operating Procedure issued by the Department of Defence Production (DDP), Ministry of Defence.
- Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the export of munitions list items has been modified and placed on the website of the DDP.
- A completely end-to-end online portal for receiving and processing authorisation permission has been developed. The applications submitted on this portal are digitally signed and the authorisation issued is also digitally signed.
- In repeat orders of same product to the same entity, consultation process has been done away with and permission is issued immediately. For the repeat order of same product to different entity, the consultation earlier done with all stakeholders is now limited only with MEA.
- In Intra-Company business (which is especially relevant for outsourcing of work by defence related parent company abroad to its subsidiary in India), the earlier requirement of getting End User Certificate (EUC) from the Government of importing country has been done away with and ‘Buying’ Company is authorized to issue the EUC.
- The legitimate export of the parts and components of small arms and body armour for civil use are now being permitted after prior consultation with MEA.
- For export of items for exhibition purposes, the requirement of consultation with stakeholders has been done way with (except for select countries).
- Powers have been delegated to DRDO, DGOF and CMD’s of DPSUs for exploring export opportunities and participation in global tenders.
- New End User Certificate Format for Parts & Components has been provided in SOP.
- Validity of Export Authorization has been increased for 02 years to date of completion of order/component whichever is later.
- A new provision for re-exporting parts and components for undertaking repair or rework to provide replacement for a component under warranty obligation is inserted in the SOP as a sub-classification of repeat orders.
- MHA vide Notification dated 1.11.2018 has delegated its powers to this Department to issue export license under Arms Rules 2016 in Form X-A, for parts & components of small arms. With this the Department of Defence Production becomes the single point of contact for exporter for export of parts and components of Small Arms & Ammunitions.
- The Government has notified the Open General Export License (OGEL) – a one time export license, which permits the industry to export specified items to specified destinations, enumerated in the OGEL, without seeking export authorisation during the validity of the OGEL.
- Scheme for Promotion of Defence Exports has been notified to provide an opportunity to the prospective exporters an option to get their product certified by the Govt. and provides access to the testing infrastructure of Ministry of Defence for initial validation of the product and its subsequent field trials. The certificate can be produced by the prospective exporter for marketing their products suitably in the global market.
- A separate Cell has been formed in the Department of Defence Production to co-ordinate and follow up on export related action including enquiries received from various countries and facilitate private sector and public sector companies for export promotion.
- A Scheme to provide financial support to Defence Attaches for taking up actions for promoting exports of Indian made defence products both of public and private sector in the countries to which they are attached has been notified.
Based on the value of Authorization/Licence issued by DDP to Private companies and actual export by DPSUs/OFB the export value during the last three years is as under:
(in Rs crore)
Outsourcing is used as a strategic tool to achieve cost benefits and helps in complementing the strength of private sector to build a strong industrial base. It also helps in meeting the delivery schedules and is therefore done by DPSUs and OFB.
- Relaxation of FDI norms in Defence Sector
- In May 2001, the Defence Industry sector, which was hitherto reserved for the public sector, was opened upto 100% for Indian private sector participation, with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) upto 26% both subject to licensing.
- Further, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce & Industry vide Press Note No. 5(2016 Series), has allowed FDI under automatic route upto 49% and above 49% through government route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded.
- Further, FDI in defence industry sector is subject to industrial license under Industries (Development & Regulation) Act, 1951 and manufacturing of small arms and ammunition under the Arms Act, 1959.
- As per the data furnished by 79 companies in Defence and Aerospace sector, so far (i.e. till December, 2019), FDI inflows of over Rs. 3155 crores have been reported in Defence and Aerospace sectors.
- Further, FDI inflows of over Rs. 1834 crores have been reported in Defence and Aerospace sector after 2014.
- Supply of Body Coveralls from indigenous manufacturers commenced
- Over the last 45 days, Ministries of Health & Family Welfare and Textiles are attempting to locate adequate number of sources who can produce and supply the requirement of Body Coveralls for the government. During the last week of January 2020, the technical standard for the Coveralls was prescribed as per WHO class-3 exposure pressure in accordance with ISO 16003 or its equivalent.
- Such materials are manufactured by a few international companies, who expressed their inability to supply on account of a complete glut in stocks and ban of exports by the source countries. Only a limited quantity was offered and procured by the procurement organization of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
- Starting from 30thJanuary, wide outreach has been attempted through various meetings and interactions with the Chambers of Commerce variousTextiles Associations, medical textiles manufacturers and suppliers; in inviting a higher participation of the suchmanufacturers having adequate capacity to partner with the government and offer their proto-types for testing. M/s HLL Lifecare Limited is the designated single-window procurement agency for the hospitals and healthcare organisations under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
- Five indigenous manufacturers came forward and offered fabric proto-types for testing at the accredited laboratory of South India Textiles research association (SITRA) at Coimbatore. All these attempts were directed at indigenous development of manufacturing sources as international supplies could not be possible.
- The testing was done at SITRA between 2ndFebruary to 25th February 2020, and the results of the fabric samples were referred to the technical experts to consider and decide on the technical requirements for COVID-19, considering the information on nature and characteristics of SARS-COVID-2 virus known by to the medical experts.
- Ministry of Health & Family Welfare finalised the technical requirement on 2ndMarch 2020, based on the indigenous availability of materials and the technical requirement for a high level of protection of the healthcare professionals who would deal with the COVID-19 cases, in consultation with medical experts in the field.
- The specification was published on the official website of HLL Lifecare Ltd on 5thMarch 2020, inviting manufacturers having adequate capability to participate in the procurement process. So far, proto type garments of six Indian manufacturers have passed the prescribed tests conducted at SITRA, and two more manufacturers are forthcoming as on date. In addition, more and more manufacturers have been invited to offer their proto type samples, and come forward to meet the requirement of the government.
- It is for information of all that the technical specification, and quantity required are published on the official website of HLL LifecareLimited(lifecarehll.com)and every potential manufacturer in the country is invited to participate in the endeavour of the government. The supply of Body Coveralls from indigenous manufacturers according the MoH&FW’s revised technical requirement dated 2ndMarch 2020, has already commenced.
- Further, in order to maintain a strong reserve of these essential medical products; Government has issued orders banning of exports on all personal protective equipment including Body Coveralls, N-95 Masks, 2-ply/3-ply Surgical Masks on 31stJanuary 2020.
- On request from the industry, and on the assurance that adequate supply of 2-ply/3-ply Surgical Masks at reasonable prices would be ensured, Government lifted the ban on exports of Surgical Masks on 8th However, the ban on exports was re-imposed on 19thMarch 2020, on all 2-ply/3-ply Surgical Masks and the raw materials required for manufacture of such products.
- The export ban on Body Coveralls and N-95 Masks has since been in force since 31stJanuary 2020, a fact in contravention to the misleading information published in the media.
- Ministry of Health & family Welfare, Department of Pharmaceuticals, and Ministry of Textiles are continuously working with various industry bodies, stakeholders and manufacturers on 24×7 basis, to streamline the supply chain, remove bottlenecks and maintain a steady supply of all materials required for the healthcare professionals.
- EPFO issues Directions for timely credit of monthly Pension to EPS Pensioners
- EPFO is disbursing monthly pension to more than 65 Lakh pensioners every month under the Employees’ Pension Scheme, 1995.
- Due to the corona virus pandemic, lock down has been declared in various parts of the country.
- In order to ensure that no inconvenience is caused to the pensioners on account of the prevalent situation, Central Provident Fund Commissioner has directed the field offices of EPFO to generate and reconcile pensioners’ details and pension amount statements for the current month by 25th March, 2020.
- He further directed that the same should be forwarded to the banks in advance so that the monthly pension is credited into the account of the pensioners in time i.e. during the month of March itself.
- Lok Sabha passes Finance Bill, 2020
- The Lok Sabha today passed the Finance Bill, 2020 without discussion. The house negated amendments moved by Opposition members over the bill.
- When the house was taking up the bill, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and T R Baalu of DMK demanded the government to announce financial packages in view of COVID- 19 outbreak. Mr Chowdhury termed it as extraordinary situation.
- MoS Home introduces Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, 2020
- Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy today introduced the Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, 2020 and The National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020 in the Lok Sabha.
- The Minister said that the National Forensic Sciences University will be an institution of national importance to facilitate and promote studies and research and to achieve excellence in the field of forensic science in conjunction with applied behavioural science studies, law, criminology and other allied areas and technology and other related fields.
- China: No new local cases of coronavirus, 39 infections brought in from overseas
- China reported no new local cases of the coronavirus today but confirmed another 39 infections brought in from overseas. Nine more people died, the National Health Commission said, all in the epicentre city of Wuhan where the virus first emerged late last year.
- Two months after China took the dramatic steps to lock down some 56 million people in Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei, infections have slowed dramatically. Travel and work restrictions in the province have been gradually eased and Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan earlier this month, his first since the crisis erupted.
- As the rate of infection slows in China, the rest of the world has stepped up measures to try and battle the raging pandemic.
- There have now been over 81,000 cases in China, and the death toll has reached 3,270. The outbreak has killed more than 14,400 people worldwide.
- PM Modi expresses gratitude to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & Afghanistan for contribution to COVID-19 Emergency Fund
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed his gratitude to President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani for their contribution to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
- In a series of tweets, Mr Modi said, through the solidarity and working together, we will overcome challenges posed by COVID-19. He said, the cooperation will go a long way in fighting this disease effectively.
- Sri Lanka has contributed five million US dollars, Bangladesh 1.5 million dollars and Afghanistan has contributed one million dollars to the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
- Afghan govt, Taliban hold 1st discussion on arranging possible prisoner exchanges
- The Afghan government and the Taliban yesterday held their first discussion on arranging possible prisoner exchanges. The US special envoy for Afghanistan informed this on Twitter.
- US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said that the US and Qatar facilitated the first Afghan government to Taliban technical talks on prisoner releases, via Skype video conferencing.
- He had said on Wednesday that it was “urgent” to quickly conclude plans for such exchanges as the Coronavirus pandemic was complicating diplomatic contacts.
- Brazil’s football clubs hand over their stadiums to turn them into field hospitals
- Brazil’s top football clubs are handing over their stadiums to allow health authorities to turn them into field hospitals and clinics to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
- Football in Brazil has been suspended until further notice and more than half the clubs in Brazil’s “Serie A” have given up their stadiums to expand hospital capacity to deal with the coronavirus.
- Authorities in Sao Paulo said, they would install 200 beds in a field hospital at the Pacaembu municipal stadium to relieve pressure on the city’s hospitals. Brazil currently has 1,128 confirmed infections and 18 deaths.
- Canada pulls out of Tokyo Olympics over Coronavirus fears
- Canada pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics over Coronavirus fears as Japan’s prime Minister today admitted a delay may be inevitable and the International Olympic Committee said a decision should come within weeks.
- Australia also told its athletes to prepare for a Tokyo Olympics in 2021 as expectations grew that the Games scheduled to start on July 24, would be postponed as the virus crisis convulses the globe.
- Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament that Japan was still committed to a complete Games, but added, if that becomes difficult, in light of considering athletes first, it may become inevitable that we make a decision to postpone.
- It was the second major concession in a matter of hours after the IOC said, the scenario of postponement was one of the options under consideration, with a final decision due within four weeks.
- IOC President Thomas Bach wrote open letter to athletes after emergency talks that Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the Games. Bach said cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody.