Read about the WTO ruling against India’s national solar power program, railway budget 2016, the new Atal Innovation mission in NITI Aayog and more …
1) U.S. wins WTO dispute against India’s solar rules.
- The United States won a ruling against India at the World Trade Organization on Wednesday after challenging the rules on the origin of solar cells and solar modules used in India’s national solar power program.
- In a statement, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office called the ruling a significant victory that would hasten the spread of solar energy across the world and support clean-energy jobs in the United States.
- The WTO ruling, which can be appealed within 60 days, was repeatedly delayed as the two sides tried to negotiate a settlement. An Indian official had said a compromise might let India subsidize state projects such as defense or railway projects.
- The United States complained to the WTO in 2013 about the Indian solar program, which sought to ease chronic energy shortages in Asia’s third-largest economy without creating pollution.
- But a requirement that certain cells and modules be made in India fell afoul of WTO rules on discriminating against imports. The United States said its solar exports to India had fallen by 90 percent from 2011, when India imposed the rules.
2) Rail Budget 2016: Railways to double investment to Rs 1.2 lakh crore for Financial Year 2017:
- Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in his Rail Budget 2016 speech said that he plans to double investment to Rs 1.2 lakh crore for FY17.
- He went on to say that he expects Railways top record a revenue growth of 10.1 per cent in FY17.
- Prabhu said that the institution would aim for an operation ratio of 92 per cent for the financial year 2016-2017.
- The Union Railway Budget 2016-17 focused on capacity creation in the rail sector, with an increased outlay of about Rs. 1.21 lakh crore, and on completion of the ongoing projects rather than announcing new ones.
- Prabhu started his second Railway Budget speech by saying that his aim is to fulfill PM Narendra Modi’s vision of Railways being a backbone and lifeline for India.
- This budget was awaited as the railways had earned Rs 136,079.26 crore as against the target of Rs 141,416.05 crore, a decline of 3.77 per cent.
3) India to launch first solar mission in 2019-20 –ISRO.
- The Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, is set to launch the country’s first solar mission called Aditya-L1. Accordingly, Aditya-L1 satellite will be placed in an orbit about 15 lakh kilometres from the earth.
- Its primary objective will be to study the solar corona in different wavebands.
- Minister of State in PMO Jitendra Singh gave this information in the Lok Sabha. In reply to a question he said ISRO is going to launch eight Indian and 19 foreign satellites this year. The countries whose satellites it will be launching include Algeria, Canada, Germany, Indonesia and USA.
More Details about Aditya-L1:
- The Aditya-1 mission was conceived as a 400kg class satellite carrying one payload, the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC) and was planned to launch in a 800 km low earth orbit. A Satellite placed in the halo orbit around the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) of the Sun-Earth system has the major advantage of continuously viewing the Sun without any occultation/ eclipses. Therefore, the Aditya-1 mission has now been revised to “Aditya-L1 mission” and will be inserted in a halo orbit around the L1, which is 1.5 million km from the Earth.
- The project is approved and the satellite will be launched during 2019 – 2020 timeframe by PSLV-XL from Sriharikota.
- With the inclusion of multiple payloads, this project also provides an opportunity to solar scientists from multiple institutions within the country to participate in space based instrumentation and observations.
4) PM Modi approves setting up of Atal Innovation mission in NITI Aayog.
- The Centre approved a proposal to establish Atal Innovation Mission and Self Employment and Talent Utilisation in NITI Aayog, which will encourage innovations and entrepreneurship.
- Establishment of AIM and AIM Directorate would result in implementation of Mission activities in a focussed manner, it added. It said that AIM would be a focal point for innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
- It would be guided by a Mission High Level Committee (MHLC), which will take all decisions relating to approval of requisite guidelines including Grand Challenge areas, prize money and implementation of various elements of AIM and SETU.
- NITI Aayog will hire Mission Director and other appropriate manpower. The headquarter of the Mission will be New Delhi.
- With a view to give substantial boost to the innovation ecosystem and to catalyse the entrepreneurial spirit in the country, Finance Minister in his Budget Speech 2015-16 announced the government’s intention to establish AIM and a mechanism to be known as SETU in NITI with an initial sum of Rs 500 crore and Rs 1,000 crore, respectively.
- The Committee also emphasized the need to establish clear systems to monitor implementation, execution, and impact. The AIM and SETU are being initiated as a follow up of Union Budget 2015-16 announcements.
5) India’s Army Will Open All Combat Roles to Women, President Says.
- India will allow women to take up combat roles across all three branches of the military, the country’s President said this week, indicating a path to gender equality in one of the world’s largest armies.
- The move indicates a radical move towards gender parity in one of the world’s most male-dominated professions.
- In October, the government took the first steps towards bringing women into fighting roles and approved plans by the Indian Air Force for women pilots to fly warplanes from June 2017 on a three-year experimental basis.
- Women only make up 2.5% of the Indian army’s million-plus personnel, mostly in medical or administrative roles. The army has largely resisted a move to induct women into combat, expressing concerns over their ability to handle the high physical strain and vulnerability in case of capture.
- That has begun to change in recent months, however, with the government approving a proposal by the Indian air force last October to train female fighter pilots by mid-2017. An all-women army contingent also marched at India’s landmark Republic Day Parade last month, a first in the country’s history.
- India joins the U.S. — who recently opened up all combat roles to women in the military — and only a handful of other countries, including Israel, Germany and Australia, in permitting women on the front lines.