IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


6th January, 2020


Need transparent UDAN: air passengers’ association

The Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) wants the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) – Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) — to be fine-tuned and recalibrated with details of money spent by the government in airline subsidies, the number of routes suspended.

Concern with UDAN:

-       Scheme in the present form is opaque.

-       Airlines are taking advantage of the loopholes, deciding arbitrarily how many seats have to be allocated under the scheme.

-       Airports Authority of India (AAI) has spent over ₹1,100 crores for revamping airports, but still the facilities and operations at these airports remained woefully inadequate.

-       75% of the airports owned by it are registering losses, most being regional airports.

-       Profitable airports being privatised, AAI will soon have a stable revenue stream, which should be deployed towards developing regional airports.


-       Airports development should take place concurrently with UDAN to have the desired effect.

-       Passengers have the right to know how much money has been spent by the government on subsidy to the airlines.

About UDAN scheme:

Objectives of the Regional Connectivity Scheme:

-       Operationalization and development of 425 underserved or unserved airports in the country.

-       Boost inclusive economic development by providing faster connectivity.

-       Development of air transport infrastructure in remote areas aiding job growth.


-       Interested airline and helicopter operators can start operations on hitherto un-connected routes by submitting proposals to the Implementing Agency.

-       The operators could seek a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) apart from getting various concessions.

-       The selected airline operator would have to provide a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 40 UDAN Seats (subsidized rates) on the UDAN Flights for operations.

-       Central Government would provide concessions in the form of reduced excise duty, service tax and flexibility of code sharing at the RCS (UDAN) airports.

-       State governments will have to lower the VAT on Air Turbine Fuel (ATF) to 1% or less, besides providing security and fire services free of cost and electricity, water and other utilities at substantially concessional rates.

-       Airport operators shall not impose Landing and Parking charge and Terminal Navigation Landing Charges in addition to discounts on Route Navigation Facility Charges.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/need-transparent-udan-air-passengers-association/article30489240.ece

India faces a year of tough trade negotiations

After walking out of negotiations on the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement, the government said it would renegotiate its existing Free Trade Agreements (FTA) and redouble its efforts to conclude other trade negotiations.

New Facts:

-       Shift in the global economic climate in the face of slowdowns worldwide

-       Dilution of the WTO’s arbitration powers.

-       The impact of the U.S.-China trade war.

-       A perceived increase in anti-immigrant sentiments.

-       India will not be able to drive as hard a bargain as it would like on services exports, in exchange for allowing more market access to goods imports.

Possible trade agreements:

-       Long-pending negotiations with Australia for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

-       Restarting EU-India Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) talks.

-       New trade deal with the U.K.

-       Ministry of External Affairs should focus on closing talks with U.S. Trade Representatives.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/new-delhi-faces-a-year-of-tough-trade-negotiations/article30486054.ece

Art & Culture

Marble domes of Aurangabad’s Bibi Ka Maqbara to get new glow

The marble domes of Bibi Ka Maqbara, the famous 17th century Mughal-era monument is set to get a new shine.

About Bibi Ka Maqbara:

-       It is known as the ‘Taj of the Deccan’ because of its striking resemblance to the Taj Mahal.

-       It was commissioned by Emperor Aurangzeb in 1660 in the memory of his wife Dilras Banu Begum.

-       The tomb is located in Aurangabad, Maharashtra.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/marble-domes-of-aurangabads-bibi-ka-maqbara-to-get-new-glow/article30490750.ece


Iran abandons nuclear deal limits after US kills general

Iran would no longer abide by any of the limits of its unravelling 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.

Iran Statement:

-       Israeli city of Haifa and “centers” like Tel Aviv could be targeted.

-       Country will not observe limitations on its nuclear enrichment.

-       The amount of stockpiled enriched uranium as well as research and development in its nuclear activities.

-       Its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency “will continue as before.”

-       Iraq’s parliament voted in favour of a resolution calling for an end of the foreign military presence in their nation.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/iran-abandons-nuclear-deal-limits-after-us-kills-general/article30488715.ece


UPSC to conduct an exclusive exam for railways

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) will be conducting an exclusive examination for recruitment of officers to handle specialised services in the newly created Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) following unification of eight different railway services.

About IRMS:

-       The Union Cabinet has approved the organizational restructuring of the railways through the unification of the existing eight Group A services into one central service — the Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS).

-       The move was required as there was huge “departmentalism” that delayed many projects.

Impact of the reform:

-       Remove the ‘departmentalism’ culture, which has seeped all the way up to the Railway Board.

-       Ensure there is “one service and officers from one batch should get promotion in on go”.

-       Provide equal opportunity of reaching the top posts of divisional railway managers (DRMs) and above.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/upsc-to-conduct-an-exclusive-exam-for-railways/article30486328.ece


Challakere to be ISRO’s astronaut training hub

India’s world-class facility for training astronauts will be established in three years at Challakere in Chitradurga district of Karnataka.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has proposed a ₹ 2,700-crores master plan to create top infrastructure that will house its young Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC).


-       Human Space Programme (HSP) work is split across various centres such as the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram and the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru.

-       The first set of four astronaut candidates for the first Gaganyaan mission of 2022 are to train in Russia.


-       The country pays a hefty, unnamed sum to use such facilities abroad.

-       Such full-fledged facilities were needed within the country, as the HSP would not be a one-time affair with one Gaganyaan project.

About Quarantine Unit:

-       The ISRO also planned to add a quarantine facility at the second launch pad (SLP) in the Sriharikota spaceport.

-       It would ensure that astronauts who were about to enter the spacecraft before the launch stay unexposed.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/challakere-to-be-isros-astronaut-training-hub/article30489101.ece


Army to sign MoU for AK-203 assault rifles in a month

The Army is likely to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in a month for the procurement of over 7.5 lakh AK-203 assault rifles, which are to be manufactured locally by an India-Russia joint venture (JV).

About the JV:

-       The rifles will be manufactured by the Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL) at Korwa in Uttar Pradesh.

-       The facility is being set up between the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) from the Indian side, and Rosoboron Exports and Kalashnikov on the Russian side.

-       The OFB owns 50.5% equity and Russian side holds the remaining 49.5%.


-       100% indigenisation of the rifle.

-       Export of the rifles from IRRPL to other friendly countries will help to earn dollars.

-       It will be helpful to replace the indigenous INSAS (Indian National Small Arms System) rifles in use with a modern rifle.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/army-to-sign-mou-for-ak-203-assault-rifles-in-a-month/article30486064.ece

National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) wants govt. push for Saras Mk2 takeoff

The government needs to be the “launch customer” to make Saras Mk2 commercially viable.

About Saras MKII:

-       First indigenous light transport aircraft.

-       At least 20-25% lower in cost than other aircraft in the similar category.


-       The NAL has been pitching SARAS Mk-2 for the government’s UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), since it has the capacity to operate in “ill-equipped”, “semi-prepared” and “unpaved airstrips”.

-       Government should place an order for at least 50-60 aircraft, which can be used for VIP services or tackling emergencies in times of natural calamities.

-       It will bring industries forward to set up manufacturing infrastructure.

-       This will also push the growth of the micro, small and medium enterprises and allied service sector.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/national-aerospace-laboratory-wants-govt-push-for-saras-mk2-takeoff/article30487826.ece