GTB Nagar Branch has shifted to Delhi University North Campus Plot No. 115, Block-A, Kamla Nagar, Near Shakti Nagar Chowk, Delhi-110007

      Question and Answer

       Q. 365. Exercise INDRA - 2017: Indo-Russia Joint Exercise
      Indian armed forces is conducting first ever International Tri Service Exercise wit Russian armed forces. It will give a major boost to the Indo-Russian defence cooperation.  Exercise INDRA-2017 is being conducted in the Eastern Military District of Russia from 19 to 29 Oct 2017. Exercise INDRA in its previous nine versions has been conducted as a single service exercise alternately between the two countries. The year 2017 marks a major milestone as this Exercise has been upgraded to involve all the three Services of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy & Air Force), which further accentuates the importance of Joint Services in the present world environment.

      Exercise INDRA-2017 is being conducted in the Sea of Japan near Vladivostok. The Indian contingent will comprise of 350 personnel from Army, 80 from Air Force, two IL 76 aircraft and one Frigate and Corvette each from the Navy. The Russian Federation Armed Forces will be represented by approximately 1000 troops, Marines and Ships of Pacific Fleet and aircraft from Eastern Military District.

      The Exercise will provide an opportunity to the armed forces of both countries to train in counter terrorism operations in a multinational scenario in a joint tri service environment. The scope of the Exercise includes professional interactions, establishment of joint command and control structures between the Indian & Russian forces and elimination of terrorist threat in a multinational environment under the UN mandate.

      Exercise INDRA-2017 will strengthen mutual confidence, inter-operability and enable sharing of best practices between both the armed forces. It will be a landmark event in the history of Indo-Russian defence cooperation.
       Q. 364. Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI)
      Through the Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI), the Government aims to reach each and every child under two years of age and all those pregnant women who have been left uncovered under the routine immunisation programme. The special drive will focus on improving immunization coverage in select districts and cities to ensure full immunization to more than 90% by December 2018.
      Intensified Mission Indradhanush will have inter-ministerial and inter-departmental coordination, action-based review mechanism and intensified monitoring and accountability framework for effective implementation of targeted rapid interventions to improve the routine immunization coverage. IMI is supported by 11 other ministries and departments, such as Ministry of Women and Child Development, Panchayati Raj, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Youth Affairs among others. The convergence of ground level workers of various departments like ASHA, ANMs, Anganwadi workers, Zila preraks under National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM), self-help groups will be ensured for better coordination and effective implementation of the programme.
      Intensified Mission Indradhanush will cover low performing areas in the selected districts and urban areas. Special attention will be given to unserved/low coverage pockets in sub-centre and urban slums with migratory population. The focus is also on the urban settlements and cities identified under National Urban Health Mission (NUHM).
      This Intensified Mission is driven based on the information received from gap assessment, supervision through government, concurrent monitoring by partners, and end-line surveys. Under IMI, special strategies are devised for rigorous monitoring of the programme. States and districts have developed coverage improvement plans based on gap self-assessment. 
       Q. 363. What is Artificial Intelligence? Discuss briefly the state of AI in India.
      Artificial intelligence 
      Artificial intelligence is intelligent behaviour by machines, rather than the natural intelligence (NI) of humans and other animals. In computer science AI is defined as the study of "intelligent agents": any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal. Colloquially, the term "artificial intelligence" is applied when a machine mimics "cognitive" functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as "learning" and "problem solving".

      Artificial intelligence was founded as an academic discipline in 1956, and in the years since has experienced several waves of optimism, followed by loss of funding (known as an "AI winter"),followed by new approaches, success and renewed funding. For most of its history, AI research has been divided into subfields that often fail to communicate with each other.

      The traditional problems (or goals) of AI research include reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, natural language processing, perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects. General intelligence is among the field's long-term goals. Approaches include statistical methods, computational intelligence, and traditional symbolic AI. Many tools are used in AI, including versions of search and mathematical optimization, neural networks and methods based on statistics, probability and economics. The AI field draws upon computer science, mathematics, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, neuroscience, artificial psychology and many others.

      In the twenty-first century, AI techniques have experienced a resurgence following concurrent advances in computer power, large amounts of data, and theoretical understanding; and AI techniques have become an essential part of the technology industry, helping to solve many challenging problems in computer science.

      India and AI
      The Union ministry of electronics and information technology has set up an internal committee to advise the government on a policy on artificial intelligence (AI). The expert committee will advise the IT ministry on the most apt technologies for India. The government’s main focus is to reduce cyber attacks with AI.

      AI is also widely seen as a major challenge in generation of employment as many companies are likely to depend more on it to cut down on human resources. The artificial intelligence market is estimated to touch $153 billion in 2020 and expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 45.4% from 2016 to 2022.

      The government has recently drawn up a seven-point strategy that would form the framework for India’s strategic plan to use AI. The strategy includes: developing methods for human machine interactions; ensuring safety and security of AI systems; creating a competent workforce in line with AI and R&D needs, understanding and addressing the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI, measuring and evaluating AI technologies through standards and benchmarks, among others.
       Q. 362. Paryatan Parv and Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat
      The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in collaboration with other Central Ministries and State Governments will organize a “Paryatan Parv” across the country from the 5th to 25th October 2017. The objective of the programme is to draw focus on the benefits of tourism, showcase the cultural diversity of the country and reinforce the principle of “Tourism for All”. The event envisages large scale participation by the public as well as industry stakeholders.
      • ParyatanParv reinforces the idea of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat with the following objectives:
      1. To CELEBRATE the Unity in Diversity of our Nation and to maintain and strengthen the fabric of traditionally existing emotional bonds between the people of our Country;  
      2. To PROMOTE the spirit of national integration through a deep and structured engagement between all Indian States and Union Territories through a year-long planned engagement between States;
      3. To SHOWCASE the rich heritage and culture, customs and traditions of either State for enabling people to understand and appreciate the diversity that is India, thus fostering a sense of common identity;
      4. To ESTABLISH long-term engagements and 
      5. To CREATE an environment which promotes learning between States by sharing best practices and experiences.
      • The ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ programme, an initiative of Ministry of Culture, aims to actively enhance interaction between people of diverse cultures living in different States and UTs in India, with the objective of promoting greater mutual understanding amongst them.
      • As per the programme, each year, every State/UT would be paired with another State/UT in India for reciprocal interaction between the people.
      • It is envisaged through this exchange, that the knowledge of the language, culture, traditions and practices of different states will lead to an enhanced understanding and bonding between one another, thereby strengthening the unity and integrity of India.
      • The States and UTs are to embark on a mission to enhance their cultural, academic and economic ties by entering into a wide range of mutual engagements with the paired States/UTs covering the spheres of music, drama, cuisine, language, history, tourism and other forms of exchange between the people.
      • An indicative list of activities has been drawn up and circulated to the State Governments / UT Administrations and to the key Central Ministries. The States/ UTs may choose, evolve and develop their interaction pattern based on the suggested list as per operational suitability in the course of their interactions.
      • The paired States/ UTs are to enter into MoUs with each other to carry out common activities under Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat.
       Q. 361. National Health Policy 2017
      The National Health Policy, 2017 (NHP, 2017) seeks to reach everyone in a comprehensive integrated way to move towards wellness.  It aims at achieving universal health coverage and delivering quality health care services to all at affordable cost.

      The policy envisages as its goal the attainment of the highest possible level of health and well-being for all at all ages, through a preventive and promotive health care orientation in all developmental policies, and universal access to good quality health care services without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence. This would be achieved through increasing access, improving quality and lowering the cost of healthcare delivery.

      Specific Quantitative Goals and Objectives
      Health Status and Programme Impact
      1. Life Expectancy and healthy life
      • Increase Life Expectancy at birth from 67.5 to 70 by 2025.
      • Reduction of TFR to 2.1 at national and sub-national level by 2025.
      1. Mortality by Age and/ or cause
      • Reduce Under Five Mortality to 23 by 2025 and MMR from current levels to 100 by 2020.
      • Reduce infant mortality rate to 28 by 2019.
      1. Reduction of disease prevalence/ incidence
      • Achieve global target of 2020 which is also termed as target of 90:90:90, for HIV/AIDS i.e, - 90% of all people living with HIV know their HIV status, - 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV infection receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
      • Achieve and maintain elimination status of Leprosy by 2018, Kala-Azar by 2017 and Lymphatic Filariasis in endemic pockets by 2017.
      • To reduce premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases by 25% by 2025.
      Health Systems strengthening
      1. Health finance
      • Increase health expenditure by Government as a percentage of GDP from the existing 1.1 5 % to 2.5 % by 2025.
      • Increase State sector health spending to > 8% of their budget by 2020.
      1. Health Infrastructure and Human Resource
      • Ensure availability of paramedics and doctors as per Indian Public Health Standard (IPHS) norm in high priority districts by 2020.
      • Increase community health volunteers to population ratio as per IPHS norm, in high priority districts by 2025.
      • Establish primary and secondary care facility as per norm s in high priority districts (population as well as time to reach norms) by 2025.
      1. Health Management Information
      • Strengthen the health surveillance system and establish registries for diseases of public health importance by 2020.
      • Establish federated integrated health information architecture, Health Information Exchanges and National Health Information Network by 2025.
       Q. 360. Harit Diwali, Swasth Diwali Campaign
      • Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change has launched the “Harit Diwali, Swasth Diwali” campaign.
      • As a part of the campaign, the Environment Ministry will undertake various activities to create awareness among various stakeholders and encourage people to participate in combating air pollution.
      • In recent times, the pattern of celebration has changed somewhat and has got associated with excessive bursting of crackers. It contributes significantly to air and noise pollution.  As a result, there has been a significant impact on the environment and health of the people.
      • As has been the experience in the past few years, airborne pollution has been rising above safe limits during winter in many cities.  The excessive burning of crackers during Diwali aggravates the problem.  The pollution levels in Delhi last year, especially post Diwali, reached such levels that the government had to declare an emergency situation, which had socio-economic consequences like closing down of schools, construction sites and power stations.
      • In October this year, India will be hosting FIFA U-17 World Cup. It is an important occasion and a matter for pride for India.  It is important to ensure that there is no inconvenience caused in the conduct of the event and our national image is protected and enhanced.
      • Some of the activities to promote Green Diwali among school children include stickers/logo distribution, poster competition, advertisement on public transport systems, public appeal using Radio/FM, involving industry associations and other stakeholders.  As a part of the social media campaign, an online competition will be conducted, where any individual/organisation can make a video/audio clip on the theme ‘Pollution Free Diwali’. 
       Q. 359. Swiss Challenge
      Ans. What?
      • A ‘Swiss Challenge’ is a way to award a project to a private player on an unsolicited proposal. Such projects may not be in the bouquet of projects planned by the state or a state-owned agency, but are considered given the gaps in physical or social infrastructure that they propose to fill, and the innovation and enterprise that private players bring.
      • The government may enter into direct negotiations with a private player who submits a proposal and, if they cannot agree on the terms of the project, consider calling for bids from other interested players.
      Is this idea new to India?
      • No. At least half-a-dozen states have used the Swiss Challenge to award projects in sectors including IT, ports, power and health.
      • Gujarat included it in the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Act, 1999, and in 2006, amended the Act to provide for direct negotiation.
      • It was subsequently made part of the Andhra Pradesh Infrastructure Development Enabling Act and Punjab Infrastructure (Development & Regulation) Act.
      • Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have included it in their guidelines for infra projects.
      • At the central level, the Draft Public Private Partnership Rules, 2011, allow the Swiss Challenge only in exceptional circumstances — that too in projects that provide facilities to predominantly rural areas or to BPL populations.
      Why is it being discussed now?
      Recently, cabinet cleared a proposal to redevelop about 400 railway stations through ‘open invitation’ from interested parties. The parties will present designs and business ideas for commercial exploitation of Railways real estate — land and air space. Stations are redeveloped by Indian Stations Development Corporation Ltd, a special purpose vehicle set up as a joint venture between IRCON (51%) and Rail Land Development Authority (49%). But given its inability to develop all stations, the SPV proposes to accept business ideas from private players.

      What are the advantages?
      • Globally, there aren’t too many good examples of Swiss Challenge projects. South Africa, Chile, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan have seriously considered, awarded and implemented unsolicited projects.
      • The obvious advantages are that it cuts red tape and shortens timelines, and promotes enterprise by rewarding the private sector for its ideas.
      • The private sector brings innovation, technology and uniqueness to a project, and an element of competition can be introduced by modifying the Challenge.
      What are the problems?
      • The biggest concerns are the lack of transparency and competition while dealing with unsolicited proposals.
      • Governments need to have a strong legal and regulatory framework to award projects under the Swiss Challenge method. It can potentially foster crony capitalism, and allow companies space to employ dubious means to bag projects.
      • Given that governments sometimes lack an understanding of risks involved in a project, direct negotiations with private players can be fraught with downsides. In general, competitive bidding is the best method to get the most value on public-private partnership projects.
      • The government might also end up granting significant concessions in the nature of viability gap funding, commercial exploitation of real estate, etc., without necessarily deriving durable and long-term social or economic benefits.
      Is the Swiss Challenge suited to India?
      • There have been several controversies around largescale PPP projects.
      • Construction costs jumped significantly in the case of the Mumbai Metro.
      • There were serious issues related to the international airport and the Airport Metro line in Delhi.
      • The government has now brought PPP projects under the ambit of the CAG, so there is some scrutiny of projects where significant concessions including land at subsidised rates, real estate space, viability gap funding, etc. are granted by the government.
      • But there is still no strong legal framework at the national level, and such projects may be challenged in case of a lack of transparency or poor disclosures.
      • Bureaucrats, who ultimately sign off on such projects, continue to be afraid to take calls that might face an investigation later.
      • In the absence of transparency, and a strong element of competition, such projects may be prone to legal challenges. Smaller projects are better off in this respect.
       Q. 358. Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA)
      Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA)
      PMGDISHA is expected to be one of the largest digital literacy programmes in the world. Under the scheme, 25 lakh candidates was to be trained in the FY 2016-17; 275 lakh in the FY 2017-18; and 300 lakh in the FY 2018-19. To ensure equitable geographical reach, each of the 250,000 Gram Panchayats would be expected to register an average of 200-300 candidates.

      Eligibility: The Scheme is applicable only for rural areas of the country.

      Eligible Household: A household is defined as a unit comprising of Head of family, spouse, children and parents. All such households where none of the family member is digitally literate will be considered as eligible household under the Scheme.
      • The beneficiary should be Digitally Illiterate
      • Only one person per eligible household would be considered for training
      • Age Group: 14 - 60 years
      • Priority would be given to: Non-smartphone users, Antyodaya households, college drop-outs, Participants of the adult literacy mission
      • Digitally illiterate school students from class 9th to 12th, provided facility of Computer/ICT Training is not available in their schools.
      • Preference would be given to SC, ST, BPL, women, differently-abled persons and minorities.
      • The identification of the beneficiaries would be carried out by Common Services Centers-SPV in active collaboration with DeGS, Gram Panchayats, and Block Development Officers.
      • The implementation of the Scheme would be carried out under the overall supervision of Ministry of Electronics and IT in active collaboration with States/UTs through their designated State Implementing Agencies, District e-Governance Society (DeGS), etc.
      Training process: The duration of the training program is for 20 hours which has to be completed in a minimum of 10 days and maximum of 30 days.

      Learning Outcomes of the scheme will be:
      • Understand the basics (terminology, navigation and functionality) of digital devices.
      • Use digital devices for accessing, creating, managing and sharing information
      • Use the Internet to browse in an effective and responsible manner
      • Use technology to communicate effectively
      • Appreciate the role of digital technology in everyday life, in social life and at work
      • Carry out cashless transactions using digital financial tools (USSD/ UPI/ eWallet/ AEPS/ Card/ PoS)
      • Use Digital Locker Use online citizen centric services
       Q. 357. Cyprus problem and India
      Cyprus's modern history has been dominated by enmity between its Greek and Turkish inhabitants. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island which was backed by the Athens government. Turkey  overran parts of it and has since stationed troops in the north. The invasion came after more than a decade of sporadic inter-communal violence between the islands Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots The island was effectively partitioned with the northern third inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots. United Nations troops patrol the "Green Line" dividing the two parts. Reunification talks have proceeded slowly.

      India hopes that a just and lasting solution will be found to the Cyprus problem in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and  supports a peaceful dialogue between the concerned parties.
       Q. 356. Phyto-Pharma Plant Mission
      Phyto-Pharma Plant Mission is aimed at conservation and cultivation of endangered and threatened endemic medicinal plants.  The mission also aims to discover new botanical drugs for unmet medical needs using the rich traditional ethno-botanical knowledge and biodiversity of these states. The mission at the same time also aims to improve availability of authentic and quality botanical raw material on sustainable basis for a boom in the phyto-pharmaceutical industry. Through this Mission, the government expects to enable farmers from NE states and phyto-pharmaceutical industry to become global leaders in production and export of some quality botanical drugs for unmet medical needs.   For this Mission, Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science & Technology will be the nodal coordinating and implementing department. It will work closely with Ministry of DONER and other identified institutions.
       Q. 355. Decline in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR)
      India has registered a significant decline in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR). IMR of India has declined by three points (8% decline), from 37 per 1000 live births in 2015 to 34 per 1000 live births in 2016, compared to two points decline last year.  Infant mortality rate (IMR) is the number of deaths per 1,000 live births of children under one year of age. The rate for a given region is the number of children dying under one year of age, divided by the number of live births during the year, multiplied by 1,000. India has also recorded a major drop in birth cohort, which has for the first time come down to below 25 million. India has registered 90000 fewer infant deaths in 2016 as compared to 2015. The total number of estimated infant deaths have come down from 930000 (9.3 Lakhs) in 2015 to 840000 (8.4 lakhs) in 2016. The gender gap in India for child survival is reducing steadily. The gender difference between female and male IMR has now reduced to <10%, giving a major boost to the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme of the Government.

      The results signify that the strategic approach of the Ministry has started yielding dividends and the efforts of focusing on low performing States is paying off. Among the EAG States (In India, the eight socioeconomically backward states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, referred to as the Empowered Action Group (EAG) states) and Assam, all States except Uttarakhand have reported decline in IMR in comparison to 2015. The decline is reported as 4 points in Bihar, 3 points in Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand and two points decline in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Rajasthan. These achievements are the result of a countrywide efforts to increase the health service coverage through various initiatives of the Government that includes strengthening of service delivery; quality assurance; RMNCH+A; human resources, community processes; information and knowledge; drugs and diagnostics, and supply chain management, etc.
       Q. 354. Non Communicable Diseases: Indian states
      A recent study done to assess the diet and nutritional status of urban population has pointed out that there is an increase in incidence of Non Communicable Diseases. The increase has be attributed to change in food habits, sedentary behaviour and unhealthy lifestyles, among other risk factors. The study is titled ‘Diet and Nutritional Status of Urban Population in India and Prevalence of Obesity, Hypertension, Diabetes and Hyperlipidaemia in Urban Men and Women’. It has brought to light the prevalence rates for non-communicable diseases as well as stunting, under-nutrition and obesity in children under 5 years in the 16 States surveyed.

      The report has Revealed that Kerala has the highest prevalence of hypertension as well as high cholesterol in urban men and women. The study has also pointed out that Puducherry is at the top when it comes to prevalence of diabetes. The survey was carried out by National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau by researchers from the National Institute of Nutrition.

      • The highest prevalence of hypertension in Kerala was 31.4% for women and 38.6% for men and lowest in Bihar, 22.2% for men and 15.7% women.
      • Puducherry had the highest number of diabetic men and women (42%), followed by Delhi (36%), Karnataka and Kerala (33% each).
      • Diabetics were the highest in the age group of 60-70 and lowest in the age group of 18-30.
      • The Southern States were among the 10 with the highest prevalence of obesity among urban adults. Puducherry topped with almost 60% women and 42% men being overweight. Tamil Nadu was close behind with 54% men and 38% women recorded as obese. Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh recorded high levels of obesity among its urban men and women.
      • Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala were among the top six States which had the most tobacco smokers among urban men.
      • U.P. had the highest (43.6%) proportion of underweight children followed by Madhya Pradesh (32.3%), Puducherry had the lowest (14.2%).
       Q. 353. New Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017
      New Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017
      The union environment ministry has notified the new Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017. The new rule prohibits a range of activities in wetlands like setting up and expansion of industries, waste dumping and discharge of effluents. The new rules will replace the 2010 version of the rules.
      Wetlands can be defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water. They support rich biodiversity and provide wide range of ecosystem services such as water storage, water purification, flood mitigation, erosion control, aquifer recharge and others.
      But they are threatened by reclamation and degradation due to activities like drainage and landfill, pollution, hydrological alteration (water withdrawal and changes in inflow and outflow), over-exploitation resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption in ecosystem services provided by them.
      There are almost 115 wetlands that are officially identified by the central government and of those 26 are identified as wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention which is an international intergovernmental treaty for conservation of wetlands. India is a party to the treaty.

      New Rules:
      • The new rules stipulate setting up of a State Wetlands Authority in each State and union territories.  These authorities will be headed by the State’s environment minister. They will also include one expert each in the fields of wetland ecology, hydrology, fisheries, landscape planning and socioeconomics to be nominated by the state government.
      • These authorities will need to develop a comprehensive list of activities to be regulated and permitted within the notified wetlands and their zone of influence, recommend additional prohibited activities for specific wetlands, define strategies for conservation and wise use of wetlands, and undertake measures for enhancing awareness within stakeholders and local communities on values and functions of wetlands.
      • The State authorities will also need to prepare a list of all wetlands of the State or union territory within three months, a list of wetlands to be notified within six months, a comprehensive digital inventory of all wetlands within one year which will be updated every ten years.
      • The rules prohibit activities like conversion of wetland for non-wetland uses including encroachment of any kind, setting up of any industry and expansion of existing industries, manufacture or handling or storage or disposal of hazardous substances and construction and demolition waste, solid waste dumping, discharge of untreated wastes and effluents from industries, cities, towns, villages and other human settlements.
      Under the new rules, the powers have been given to the State governments so that protection and conservation work can be done at the local level. Central government has mainly retained powers regarding monitoring. To oversee the work carried out by States, the rules stipulates for setting up of National Wetlands Committee, which will be headed by the MoEFCC Secretary, to monitor implementation of these rules.

      The Committee will also advise the Central Government on appropriate policies and action programmes for conservation and wise use of wetlands, recommend designation of wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention, advise on collaboration with international agencies on issues related to wetlands etc.
       Q. 352. Referendum held in Catalonia
      Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain located on the eastern extremity of the Iberian Peninsula. It is designated as a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy. Catalonia consists of four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Catalonia had existed for more than 250 years before it joined Spain during the country's formation in the 16th Century. As such, identity plays a large role in the debate surrounding independence. Under the military government of Francisco Franco, from 1939-1975, Catalan culture was suppressed. Symbols of Catalan identity such as the castells, or human towers, were prohibited and parents were forced to choose Spanish names for their children.

      Because of the ongoing strife between the secessionist and the Spanish Central government, a referendum was held in Catalonia recently. However, the referendum has been declared illegal by Spain’s central government as it was marred by wide scale violence. The referendum has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades. It has also deepened a century old rift between Madrid and Barcelona. More than 2.2 million people were reported to have voted, out of 5.3 million registered voters. Just under 90% of those who voted backed independence. The region has a population of 7.5 million people. It has an economy larger than that of Portugal.
       Q. 351. National Assessment and Accreditation Council
      National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has launched revised accreditation framework. The NAAC is an autonomous body established by the University Grants Commission to assess and accredit institutions of higher education.

      The framework used for this process takes into consideration the following aspects:
      1. Educational outcomes,
      2. Curriculum
      3. Faculty
      4. Governance
      5. Financial well-being.
      The revised framework incorporates qualitative and quantitative methods for assessment and accreditation.

      Key features of the framework are as follows:
      1. Simplification of process and ICT: The revised framework will be more Information and Communications Technology (ICT) intensive.
      2. Additions to the current grading pattern: A system of applying minimum qualifiers for achieving a grade will be implemented.
      3. Further, the assessment process envisages enhanced participation by the students and alumni. 
       Q. 350. India's first private missile production facility
      India’s has unveiled its first private sector missile sub-systems manufacturing facility. It is a joint venture between the Kalyani Group and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd. The facility is located near Hyderabad. The move is in line with ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Centre. The facility is also the manifestation and the policy to encourage private sector participation in defence production.
      Advanced equipment
      The  Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems (KRAS) plant will make anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) Spike and the production will begin very soon. Besides supplying to the Indian Army, the product will also be exported to South East Asian countries also.
      The plant will also produce electro-optics, remote weapon systems, precision guided munitions and system engineering for system integration. The plant would employ more than 300 engineers and provide indirect employment to 1,000 people.
      KRAS aims to be a one-stop solution provider to locally re-design, develop, re-engineer and manufacture various land and airborne products and systems in India. It also has plans for expansion. The phase-II will be undertaken at another industrial location in Hyderabad.


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