Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Preparation: 11 November 2017

Cabinet approves MoU between India and Philippines on agriculture and related fields

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Philippines in the field of agriculture and related fields.

The MoU will improve bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture and will be mutually beneficial to both countries.

It will promote understanding of best agricultural practices in the two countries and will help in better productivity as well as improved global market access.

This MoU provides for cooperation in the fields of rice production and processing, multi cropping system, dryland farming systems, bio-organic farming, solid and water conservation and management, soil fertility, sericulture, agro forestry, livestock improvement etc.

The MoU provides for constitution of Joint Working Group composed of equal number of representatives. The Joint Working Group shall meet once every two years alternatively in the Philippines and India.

 

Cabinet approves Creation of National Testing Agency (NTA) to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved creation of National Testing Agency (NTA) as a Society registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, and as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions.

Features:

  • The NTA would initially conduct those entrance examinations which are currently being conducted by the CBSE.
  • Other examinations will be taken up gradually after NTA is fully geared up.
  • The entrance examinations will be conducted in online mode at least twice a year, thereby giving adequate opportunity to candidates to bring out their best.
  • In order to serve the requirements of the rural students, it would locate the centres at sub-district/district level and as far as possible would undertake hands-on training to the students.

Constitution:

  • NTA will be chaired by an eminent educationist appointed by MHRD.
  • The CEO will be the Director General to be appointed by the Government.
  • There will be a Board of Governors comprising members from user institutions.
  • The Director General will be assisted by 9 verticals headed by academicians/ experts.

Finances:

NTA will be given a one-time grant of Rs.25 crore from the Government of India to start its operation in the first year. Thereafter, it will be financially self-sustainable.

Impact:

Establishment of NTA will benefit about 40 lakh students appearing in various entrance examinations. It will relieve CBSE, AICTE and other agencies from responsibility of conducting these entrance examinations, and also bring in high reliability, standardized difficulty level for assessing the aptitude, intelligence and problem solving abilities of the students.

 Background:

In view of the need to have a specialized body in India like the most advanced countries, the Finance Minister in the Budget speech of 2017-18 had announced setting up of a National Testing Agency (NTA) as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct all entrance examinations for higher educational institutions.

 

Cabinet approves utilisation of pulses from the buffer stock through Central Government Schemes having nutrition component

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved to utilize part of stock of pulses in the buffer maintained by the Department of Consumer Affairs, for meeting the protein component under various schemes of Central Government providing nutrition to various target groups/beneficiaries. To give effect to the decision, the CCEA has empowered the concerned Departments/Ministries to carry out suitable amendments in their schemes/guidelines to enable them to take/provide pulses from the buffer in kind under their respective Schemes.

The disposal through the Central Government Schemes is in addition to the disposal of pulses from the buffer through open market sale and supply to States.

All the concerned Ministries/Departments will make necessary changes in their schemes and assess requirement of pulses within next three months of the approval. Supply of pulses from the Central buffer would commence based on such requirement indicated by these Ministries/Departments.

The objective of the approval is to enable the concerned administrative Ministries/Departments to ensure that pulses from the buffer are utilized as in ‘kind’ component of the Centre’s contribution in such schemes, in lieu of its financial contribution of equivalent amount. The concerned Departments may revert to the current system of making nutrition available only in case of non-availability of pulses in the buffer. Ministries/Departments or their agencies providing food/catering/hospitality services have also been enabled to make suitable provision in their Commercial arrangement(tenders/contracts) to ensure that the requirements of pulses for such operations are met through the central buffer.

The approval will also help ensure adequate supply of nutrients/pulses under the various schemes/programmes of Government including Mid Day Meal (MDM) scheme, hospitals, etc. as well as Ministries/Departments or their agencies providing food/catering/hospitality services.

This would facilitate optimal utilization and efficient management of pulses in buffer through regular/planned rotation of pulses and replacement of stock through fresh crop on continual basis. The cost of pulses supplied to States would, in no case, be higher than the market price, protecting their interest as well.

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