Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Indian IAS Academy's April Current Affairs - 17-04-2017

1) Oxytocin – More than just a “Love Hormone”:-

  • The role of oxytocin in child birth and social behaviors such as maternal bonding and monogamy has been a focus of study for many years, recent research is exploring the hormone’s role in psychiatric conditions such as autism spectrum disorder.

  • In autism research with oxytocin therapy initially showed promising results. However, the study sizes have been small in numbers and the effects of varying doses of oxytocin on behavior has not been sufficiently investigated.

  •  According to a recent study, Oxytocin, often referred to as “the love hormone,” is involved in a broader range of social interactions than previously understood.

  • The new study pinpoints a unique way in which oxytocin alters activity in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which is crucial to experiencing the pleasant sensation neuroscientists call “reward.”

  • The findings not only provide validity for ongoing trials of oxytocin in autistic patients, but also suggest possible new treatments for neuropsychiatric conditions in which social activity is impaired.

  •       Oxytocin has also been dubbed the hug hormone, cuddle chemical, moral molecule, and the bliss hormone due to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and in female reproductive biological functions in reproduction.

  •       Oxytocin is a hormone that is made in the brain, in the hypothalamus. It is transported to, and secreted by, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.

  •       It acts both as a hormone and as a brain neurotransmitter.

  •       The release of oxytocin by the pituitary gland acts to regulate two female reproductive functions: Childbirth and Breast-feeding.

2) Telangana Cabinet clears bill to increase quotas for STs, Muslims:-

  • Both the houses of Telangana Legislature have cleared a bill which increases the reservations for Scheduled Tribes and backward sections among the Muslim community in government jobs and educational institutions.

  • The Telangana Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Bill, 2017 was cleared amid opposition from many MLAs.


  • Under the bill, quota for STs will be increased to 10% from the existing 6%, while that for BC-E category (the backward sections among the Muslim community) will go up to 12% from the existing 4%.

  • The total reservations in the state, consequently, will go up to 62% from the existing 50%.

What necessitated this move?

  • The state defends its move by saying that “after the bifurcation of the combined Andhra Pradesh state, the percentage of Muslims in Telangana has gone up and 90% of them are poor and socially backward.”


  • The Sudhir Commission which was set up to take stock of the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims observed in its report that in Telangana, following the general trend across India, the proportion of Muslim employees had fallen. 

  • The commission’s report observed that Muslim employees were just 7.36 per cent of the total workforce in the state.  Future action:-The reservation exceeds the Supreme Court’s 50% ceiling for such benefits. Now, the Centre has to include the bill in the 9th schedule of Constitution to grant it immunity from a judicial review.

3) Canberra keen on joining naval games:-

  • Australia is keen on joining the Malabar trilateral naval exercises among India, Japan and the U.S., and has requested observer status at the upcoming edition, scheduled for July.


  • Australia had been a part of the exercises in 2007. But a sharp response from China, which saw the joint exercises as a coalition against it, put an end to the quadrilateral format.
  • Japan and the U.S. are keen on expanding the games to include Australia with officials from both countries specifically stating so on various occasions. However, India has been reluctant to antagonise China.
About Malabar exercise:-

  • The Malabar drills, which began in 1992 as a bilateral naval exercise between India and the U.S., has since grown in scope and complexity, acquiring considerable heft in recent times. In 2015, it was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan.
4) Technical textiles use in govt. projects gets push:-

  • Technical textiles or functional textiles, considered a sunrise sector in the country, is all set for demand taking off for products such as geo and agro textiles
  • Technical textiles is a thrust area for the Government because of the value addition involved
  • It can be used in infastructure projects, including ports, roads, and railways, and in sectors such as agriculture
  • Govt seeks to promote use of textile products that will improve productivity, health standards, and infrastructure
Geo textiles:-
  • For example, are permeable fabrics that are used in association with soil and which have the ability to separate and filter, while agro-textiles are used in shading and in weed and insect control
  • In an effort to increase use of technical textiles in Government projects, it is trying to promote interface with other ministries
  • The aim is to create awareness, promote use of technical textile products, then ensure the usage is mandated in at least some areas
  • Functional textiles can be woven or non-woven
  • Automobile, geo, medical, industrial, and agro textiles are among the range of products that are made in the country
  • Foreign Direct Investments are also coming in, especially for geo textiles
  • There are a large number of units that are into production of items such as non-woven carry bags or wipes too
TUFS support:- 
  • The number of larger industries involved in the manufacture of various technical textile products is estimated to be about 2,500
  • Close to 1,000 of these have received Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme support
  • The main challenges for technical textiles in the country are awareness among consumers, need for technology and knowledge about it among entrepreneurs, the investments and time needed to be innovative and develop applications, and raw material availability.
  • China is a generation ahead in production of technical textiles. But, their costs are going up and this is an opportunity for India
  • The Government should select and support entrepreneurs to be sent abroad to learn about technical textiles.
5) Election Commission seeks funds for paper trail units:-

  • Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has requested the Union Law Ministry for urgent release of funds, given the “prevailing environment,” to facilitate procurement of VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) machines for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

What is VVPAT?

  • VVPAT stands for Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail. VVPAT system maintains a physical trail of all votes cast. Small slips of paper records the details of the vote. The Election Commission (EC) first introduced VVPAT in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

How is it related to Electronic Voting Machines?

  • When a vote is cast on the electronic voting machine, a small paper slip bearing the name and symbol of the candidate is generated. 
  • This paper appears for about 10 seconds. The slip will then automatically fall in a sealed safe box, attached to the EVM, thus maintaining a physical paper trail of all the votes cast.


  • EC feels that with most of the political parties having declared their lack of faith in EVMs, VVPAT machines are the need of the hour.

Future Plan:-

  • Over 16 lakh VVPATs would be required, at an estimated cost of ?3,174 crore, to cover all polling stations in the next Lok Sabha polls.

6) Energy: going where the wind blows:-

  • For the first time, wind power installations (windmills) in the country have crossed the 5 Gigawatt mark, to reach 5,400 MW in 2016-17. The earlier record was 3,472 MW of 2015-16. The current year might see installations of 6 GW.

Significance of this expansion:-

  • The Centre wants to buy electricity from wind power producers and sell it to electricity supply companies in other states, which are bound by law to buy a portion of their needs from wind and solar sources.


  • India, with 32,280 MW, has the fourth biggest capacity in the world, after China, the U.S. and Germany. The national target is 60 GW by 2022. Wind accounts for 10% of India’s total power capacity of 3.2 lakh MW; and 4% in terms of electricity produced.
  • The Indian wind industry has been around since the late 1980s. For many years, it existed only in T.N., the windiest State. In the last decade, it spread to eight other States that have any wind potential — four other southern states, M.P., Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Recent Central Government Schemes

1. Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana crosses loan targets:-

  · Loans disbursed under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) have crossed its target of Rs 1.8 lakh crore in the financial year 2016-17. Loans extended currently stands at Rs 1.80,087 crore. Of this, a majority of the loans were awarded by banks (Rs 1.23 lakh crore).
  · Non-banking financial institutions have lent about Rs 57,000 crore. In this year’s budget, Rs 2.44 lakh crore has been set as a target for Mudra loans for the financial year 2017-18.

2. Government launches Aadhaar Seeding Application:-  

 · The Union Ministry of Labour & Employment has launched Aadhaar Seeding Application for efficient service delivery and widening the reach of Employees Provident Fund (EPF) benefits. 

 ·     It was launched at the 217th special meeting of the Central Board of Employees Provident Fund (CBEPF/EPFO) in New Delhi under the chairmanship of Minster of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya.

3. Oil companies to revise petrol and diesel prices everyday:-

Beginning from May 1, Oil PSUs have decided to change petrol and diesel prices every day in synchronisation with international rates similar to what is practiced in advanced markets. As per the plan, pump rates will be decided based on daily movement in international oil prices and rupee-US dollar fluctuations.
• Initially, the oil PSUs like Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), which together own 95% of the petrol pumps in the country, will launch a pilot for daily fuel price revision in 5 cities viz.
• Puducherry, Vizag (Andhra Pradesh), Udaipur (Rajasthan), Jamshedpur (Jharkhand) and Chandigarh. After studying the implications of the pilot, the plan will be extended to other parts of the country.
• Unlike earlier, automation at filling stations allows oil companies to centrally change prices. Availability of digital technologies and social networks have made much easier for the oil companies to convey the change in fuel price across the 53,000 filling stations in the country.
• Present practice of price determination Presently, Oil companies have the freedom to revise rates. They revise the fuel price on 1st and 16th of every month based on the average international rate of the fuel in the preceding fortnight and currency exchange rate.
• While petrol prices were freed from the clutches of the government in June 2010, the diesel prices got deregulated in October 2014.

4. Government to launch SAMPADA scheme for food processing:-

The Union Ministry of Food Processing is going to launch Scheme for Agro-Marine Produce Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters (SAMPADA) for food processing sector.
• The scheme will integrate current and new schemes aimed at reducing food wastage and doubling farmers’ income by 2022. It will help to create infrastructure for linkage of entire supply chain.