Insights Daily Current Events, 01 April 2016
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
British Medical Journal calls for radical revamp of MCI
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) in its latest issue has called for a radical revamp of the Medical Council of India (MCI) in order to eliminate corruption and lack of ethics in healthcare.
- This observation is based on the parliamentary standing committee report which was submitted to the Rajya Sabha recently.
- In its report, BMJ has also said that the MCI has failed to create a rigorous transparent system for accrediting medical colleges, leading to geographical maldistribution and creation of ‘ghost faculties’ in private medical colleges.
The parliamentary standing committee, in its report, had pointed out the MCI’s failure to oversee quality and integrity in health services in the country.
- The committee had criticised the MCI for being a biased organisation, acting against larger public health goals. It described the Council as an “exclusive club” of medical doctors from corporate hospitals and private practice.
- The committee had called for extensive reforms in the MCI and removal of roadblocks to the Common Medical Entrance Test for admission to MBBS and PG courses.
BMJ had launched a campaign against corruption in the health sector in 2014. The journal published articles on kickbacks for referrals from doctors, revenue targets at corporate hospitals, and capitation fees in private medical colleges in India.
The centre now will have to muster strong political support to act on the committee’s recommendations as this will inevitably involve hurting well entrenched and powerful interests.
The Medical Council of India (MCI) is the statutory body for establishing uniform and high standards of medical education in India.
- The Council grants recognition of medical qualifications, gives accreditation to medical schools, grants registration to medical practitioners, and monitors medical practice in India.
- The Medical Council of India was first established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933. The Council was later reconstituted under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 that replaced the earlier Act.
Important functions performed by the council:
- Establishment and maintenance of uniform standards for undergraduate medical education.
- Regulation of postgraduate medical education in medical colleges accredited by it.
- Recognition of medical qualifications granted by medical institutions in India.
- Recognition of foreign medical qualifications in India.
- Accreditation of medical colleges.
- Registration of doctors with recognized medical qualifications.
- Keeping a directory of all registered doctors (called the Indian Medical Register).
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Walk on Mars with Buzz Aldrin
NASA and technology giant Microsoft have teamed up to create ‘Destination: Mars’, a guided tour of Mars using the HoloLens headset technology that helped scientists plan the Curiosity rover’s activities on the Red Planet. The ‘Destination: Mars’ exhibit will open at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
- The technology will offer people a virtual tour of an area of Mars with astronaut Buzz Aldrin in an interactive exhibit using the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset.
- Aldrin, an Apollo 11 astronaut who walked on the moon in 1969, will serve as the “holographic tour guide” on the journey.
- Guests will “visit” several sites on Mars, reconstructed using real images from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover, which has been exploring the Red Planet since August 2012.
“Mixed reality” means virtual elements are merged with the user’s actual environment, creating a world in which real and virtual objects can interact.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Taxes from disinvestment help government receipts balloon
In one day, the centre has raised Rs 4,500 crore by participating in a shares buyback offer of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL). The Government has also raised Rs 980 crore through the taxes it generated in these two disinvestment transactions.
Overall, in this financial year the Government has raised a total of Rs 25,000 crore. Including taxes, the Government has raised the highest amount garnered through disinvestment in a single year since 1991. In 2014-15, the Centre had raised Rs 24,348.71 crore, the maximum in a single year through disinvestment.
In 2016-17 the Government plans to participate in more offers of shares buybacks of central public sector units. In the Union Budget, a disinvestment target of Rs 56,500 crore has been set for the year. Of this, Rs 36,000 crore is to be raised from sales of minority stakes in PSUs. The remaining Rs 20,500 crore is projected to come from strategic sales in both profit and loss-making enterprises.
Disinvestments in India:
Disinvestment has become an important source of raising resource for the Government. The policy of ‘disinvestment’ in CPSEs has evolved over the years. Disinvestment of government equity in CPSEs began in 1991-92 following the Industrial Policy Statement of 1991, which stated that the Government would divest part of its holdings in select CPSEs.
Objective: The main objective of disinvestment is to put national resources and assets to optimal use and in particular to unleash the productive potential inherent in our public sector enterprises.
Current Policy on Disinvestment:
The current Government policy on disinvestment envisages people’s ownership of CPSEs while ensuring that the Government equity does not fall below 51% and Government retains management control. Keeping this objective in view of disinvestment policy, the Government has adopted the following approach to disinvestment:
Department of Disinvestment:
The Department of Disinvestment was set up on December 10, 1999, with the responsibility to deal with all matters relating to disinvestment of Central Government equity in Central Public Sector Undertakings. This department now works under the Ministry of Finance.
National Investment Fund:
In 2005, the government formed a National Investment Fund or NIF, to which the proceeds of disinvestment were channeled. The mandate of the Fund, managed by professional investment managers, was to utilise 75% of annual funds in social sector schemes to promote education, health and employment. But with the economic slowdown of 2008-09, and later a drought, this was waived for three years — and later, in 2013, restructured to provide flexibility in using the Fund.
It was decided that the NIF would be utilized for the following purposes:
- Subscribing to the shares being issued by the CPSE including PSBs and Public Sector Insurance Companies, on rights basis so as to ensure 51% ownership of the Government in those CPSEs/PSBs/Insurance Companies, is not diluted.
- Preferential allotment of shares of the CPSE to promoters as per SEBI (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2009 so that Government shareholding does not go down below 51% in all cases where the CPSE is going to raise fresh equity to meet its Capex programme.
- Recapitalization of public sector banks and public sector insurance companies.
- Investment by Government in RRBs/IIFCL/NABARD/Exim Bank.
- Equity infusion in various Metro projects.
- Investment in Bhartiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited and Uranium Corporation of India Ltd.
- Investment in Indian Railways towards capital expenditure.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
India opts not to join global terror database
The Indian government has decided not to join a U.S. maintained global terror database in the face of objections from the intelligence agencies. The proposal has been stuck since it was initially proposed by the U.S. in 2012.
Unhindered access to the Americans to the database of terror suspects in India, which includes their biometric details, was opposed by both the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
About the database:
The Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-6) is a model text agreement for exchange of terrorist screening information between Terrorist Screening Centre (TCS) of the U.S. and any Indian security agency. If India signs it, it could get access to the U.S. database of 11,000 terror suspects. The database includes name of the terror suspect, nationality, date of birth, photos, finger prints (if any), and passport number.
Why is India not interested in this pact?
Indian security agencies are apprehensive of giving unhindered access to the U.S. on sensitive data related to terrorists.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Nuclear Security Summit
The fourth Nuclear Security Summit being held in Washington DC from today will be attended by the leaders of more than 50 countries, including PM Modi.
What is a Nuclear Security Summit? When did it start?
The Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) is a world summit, aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism around the globe. The first summit was held in Washington, D.C., United States, in 2010.
What are the key goals of the NSS?
The goal of the NSS is to address concerns about fissile material falling into the wrong hands at a head-of-state level. It includes minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), bolstering security at nuclear facilities through enhanced national regulations and implementation of best practices, enhanced membership in international instruments and organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), instituting measures to detect and prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials, and Centers of Excellence, build capacity, develop technology and coordinate assistance on nuclear Security.
How many countries are participating in the fourth NSS?
This summit will be attended by 53 countries and five global institutions, which cover 98% of the nuclear material on the planet. Iran and North Korea are not invited, and Russia’s President Putin who attended the first three summits, will stay away due to his differences with President Obama over Ukraine.
The twin goals for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit are:
- Advancing tangible improvements in nuclear security behavior.
- Strengthening the global nuclear security architecture.
Action Plans on nuclear security will be endorsed for international organizations and institutions (International Atomic Energy Agency, United Nations, INTERPOL, Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction).
What are the limitations of the NSS process?
- As NSS covers nuclear material only for non-military purposes, 83% of the nuclear material falls outside its ambit.
- Despite its intent, the NSS has also not been able to amend the IAEA’s convention on nuclear safety.
- The fact that there is no legally binding outcome at the end of six years of NSS process is its major drawback. The NSS process has instead focused on asking countries to tighten their national laws, rules and capabilities on nuclear security. This has meant that military facilities are treated as national responsibilities and dealt as per international obligations.
What has been India’s contribution to the NSS?
India has played an active role at the summits with the first two being attended by then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. As part of the house gift, India made a voluntary contribution of one million dollars to the Nuclear Security Fund and has established a Global Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCENEP), where more than a dozen national and international training programmes have been conducted so far.
Threats faced by India:
India is a source of nuclear material and a potential target of nuclear terrorism. While India takes pride in the security of its nuclear installations, ‘orphan sources’ i.e devices with radioactive materials outside regulatory and security measures could pose serious risks.
According to a recent report by the Washington DC-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, India also has groups that want to acquire nuclear material. The report that ranked India low in nuclear security measures, cited corruption as a key reason that could compromise its nuclear facilities.
Security experts have identified at least four types of specific threats that terror outfits pose-
- These groups could acquire a nuclear weapon from the arsenal of a nuclear state.
- They could acquire enough fissile material to construct an improvised nuclear device.
- They could acquire radioactive material from civilian sources such as hospitals or university laboratories that could be mixed with conventional explosives to make a radioactive dispersal device or ‘dirty bomb.’
- Terror groups could also sabotage a nuclear facility leading to large-scale loss of lives and destruction.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology.
Asia’s largest telescope
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel have remotely launched Asia’s biggest telescope, the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), built with Belgian assistance. It is located in Nainital, Uttarakhand.
- ARIES telescope is a joint collaboration between Indian, Russian, and Belgian scientists.
- The total cost of the construction and setup of the telescope is estimated to be Rs 120 crore.
- The telescope is located at Devasthal, Nainital at a height of 2,500 metres.
- It is said that the site was chosen to get a clear view of the sky.
- The ARIES optical telescope’s mirror is 3.6 metres (360 centimetres) in diameter.
- The high end technology incorporated in the telescope enables it to be operated with the help of remote control from anywhere in the world.
- The telescope will be used in the study and exploration of planets, starts, magnetic field and astronomical debris.
- The scientists will also help in research of the structures of stars and magnetic field structures of stars.
- In March 2007, the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences and Belgian company Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems (AMOS) had entered a contract for design, manufacture, integration, testing, supply, and installation of the telescope.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: e-governance.
The government has launched Vidyut PRAVAH- Electricity, Price Availability and Highlights mobile application.
- The app is aimed at empowering common people to demand 24X7 power from the states and is expected to take transparency to the next level and make state governments more accountable.
- The mobile application provides highlights of the power availability in India on real time basis.
Salient Feature of Vidyut PRAVAH mobile app
- The main features include dashboard for All India summary, link for each states from All India Map and state specific pages on single click.
- It provides a wealth of information pertaining to the current demand met, shortages if any, surplus power available and the prices in the Power Exchange.
- The real time data and comparison with previous day or year data is also available.
- It is a user friendly interface which facilitates all the consumers or stakeholders in visualization of the power availability and prices at the overall country level and at States and UTs level based on the Geographical map of India.
- The information disseminated through the Application will empower the consumer, thereby leading all the stakeholders to be more responsive and efficient, bringing more economy to the country.