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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 12 April 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 12 April 2019


Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Utkarsh Bangla, Sabuj Sathi bag prestigious UN awards

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features of the schemes and about WSIS awards.

 

Context: West Bengal’s Utkarsh Bangla and Sabuj Sathi schemes have won the prestigious World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) awards under the United Nations.

 

Key facts:

  • Utkarsh Bangla and Sabuj Sathi were selected out of 1,062 nominations and they also topped the list in their respective categories.
  • Utkarsh Bangla got the topmost award and emerged a winner in the Capacity Building category.
  • Sabuj Sathi ranked in the first five as a champion project under the ICT application: E-Government category.

 

About Utkarsh Bangla:

Under Utkarsh Bangla, skill development training is given to youths. Several centres have been opened and youths are being given training there. The trained youths are then absorbed in different industries.

 

About Sabooj Sathi:

Sabooj Sathi is a scheme for distribution of bicycles to the students of class IX to XII studying in Govt. run and Govt. aided Schools and Madrashas.

 

World Summit on the Information Society Awards:

Aims to create an effective mechanism to evaluate and recognize individuals, governments, civil society, local, regional and international agencies, research institutions and private-sector companies for outstanding success in implementing development oriented strategies that leverage the power of ICTs as an enabler of the development.

 

About WSIS:

  • WSIS is, at global level, the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICT for development’ community and provides an opportunity for information exchange, knowledge creation and sharing of best practices, while identifying emerging trends and fostering partnerships, taking into account the evolving Information and Knowledge Societies.
  • The WSIS Forum is co-organized by The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • In 2019, The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum will celebrate its 10th anniversary of the establishment of WSIS Forum from April 8 to 12 in Geneva at the International Telecommunication Union, under the theme “Information and Communication Technologies for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.

 

RailWire Wi-Fi

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: About RailWire Wi- Fi and significance and about Raitel.

 

Context: RailWire Wi-Fi by RailTel is now live at 1600 railway stations across the country, with Santacruz railway station in Mumbai becoming the 1600th station to become a RailWire Wi-Fi zone.

 

What is RailWire?

RailWire is a retail Broadband initiative of the RailTel. It envisages extending broadband and application services to the public. RailTel is working to establish bringing fast and free Wi-Fi at all stations (except the halt stations) within a year.

The Wi-Fi at 415 A, A1 and C category stations has been provided in association with Google as the technology partner. Wi-Fi connections at 200 stations were provided with support from the Universal Service Obligatory Fund of the Government of India.

 

About RailTel:

  • RailTel Corporation a “Mini Ratna(Category-I)” PSU of Ministry of Railways, is the largest neutral telecom services providers in the country owning a Pan-India optic fiber network covering all important towns & cities of the country and several rural areas covering 70% of India’s population.
  • RailTel is in the forefront in providing nationwide Broadband Telecom & Multimedia Network in all parts of the country in addition to modernization of Train operations and administration network systems for Indian Railways.
  • With its Pan India high capacity network, RailTel is working towards creating a knowledge society at various fronts and has been selected for implementation of various mission-mode Govt. of India projects in the telecom field.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 1 and 3: 

Topics covered:

  1. Geographical features and their location – changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
  2. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Namami Gange gets global recognition at world summit

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: Key features of the project, About Namami Gange Programme.
  • For Mains: Significance of the project and issues associated with the cleaning of river Ganga.

 

Context: The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was awarded the distinction of “Public Water Agency of the Year” by Global Water Intelligence at the Global Water Summit in London.

Global Water Awards:

The Global Water Awards are presented at the Global Water Summit, the major business conference for the water industry worldwide.

The awards recognise excellence across the international water industry and reward those initiatives in the water, waste water, and desalination sectors, which bring remarkable improvements in the lives of people.

 

Global Water Summit:

  • Global Water Summit is the annual business conference for the water industry worldwide. The summit attracts high-level executives from industry, municipalities and international water companies and provides the opportunity to connect with hard-to-reach industry insiders that will not attend any other water event.
  • The summit provides a platform for connecting the public and private sector and for accelerating change and innovation within the sector, it attracts the most influential industry representatives and also becomes a forum for business development and expanding your network.

 

About Namami Gange Programme:

Namami Gange Programme – is an umbrella programme which integrates previous and currently ongoing initiatives by enhancing efficiency, extracting synergies and supplementing them with more comprehensive & better coordinated interventions. Government of India is supplementing the efforts of the state governments in addressing the pollution of river Ganga by providing financial assistance to the states.

Need: Each day, more than 500 million liters of wastewater from industrial sources are dumped directly into Ganga. In many places, this wastewater entering the rivers is completely raw, completely untreated.

Main Pillars of the Namami Gange Programme are:

  • Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure
  • River-Surface Cleaning
  • Afforestation
  • Industrial Effluent Monitoring
  • River-Front Development
  • Bio-Diversity
  • Public Awareness
  • Ganga Gram

 

Its implementation has been divided into:

  • Entry-Level Activities (for immediate visible impact),
  • Medium-Term Activities (to be implemented within 5 years of time frame) and
  • Long-Term Activities (to be implemented within 10 years).

 

About NMCG: National Mission for Clean Ganga, endeavors to deploy best available knowledge and resources across the world for Ganga rejuvenation. Clean Ganga has been a perennial attraction for many international countries that have expertise in river rejuvenation.

Sources: the hindu.


Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

India’s Official Secrets Act

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features of the act, concerns over certain provisions and the need for review.

 

Why in News?  Supreme Court has rejected the Centre’s twin arguments and ruled that classified documents accessed by the media on the Rafale fighter jet deal can be admitted as evidence and agreed to review its own order that the government had interpreted as a clean chit.

The court upheld the right of The Hindu newspaper to publish documents that the government had described as “stolen”. “The right of such publication would seem to be in consonance with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech.

 

About Official Secrets Act:

  • The law meant for ensuring secrecy and confidentiality in governance, mostly on national security and espionage issues.
  • The Indian Official Secrets Act, 1904 was enacted during the time of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.
  • One of the main purposes of the Act was to muzzle the voice of nationalist publications.
  • The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act No XIX of 1923) replaced the earlier Act, and was extended to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.

 

Ambit of the Act:

The secrecy law broadly deals with two aspects — spying or espionage, which is dealt with in Section 3 of the Act, and disclosure of other secret information of the government, which is dealt with in Section 5. The secret information can be any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information.

 

Need for review:

  1. Since the classification of secret information is so broad, it is argued that the colonial law is in direct conflict with the Right to Information Act.
  2. Under Section 5, both the person communicating the information, and the person receiving the information, can be punished by the prosecuting agency.
  3. The SARC report states that as the OSA’s background is the colonial climate of mistrust of people and the primacy of public officials in dealing with the citizens, it created a culture of secrecy.
  4. Another contentious issue with the law is that its Section 5, which deals with potential breaches of national security, is often misinterpreted. The Section makes it a punishable offence to share information that may help an enemy state. The Section comes in handy to book journalists when they publicise information that may cause embarrassment to the government or the armed forces.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: “Secrecy in government operations is necessary, but it has to be limited by absolute necessity, keeping the confidentiality strictly time-bound.” In the light of recent debate on Official Secrets Act 1923, critically comment on the statement.


 

Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Issues related to health and Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

e-cigarettes

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims and Mains: e-cigarettes- concerns, effects on health, need for regulation, challenges associated and measures needed.

Context: The Commerce Ministry has asked the Health Ministry to frame a law banning manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes in the country as in the absence of a domestic legislation, it would not be possible to put a blanket ban on its imports.

What are e-cigarettes? An electronic cigarette (or e-cig) is a battery-powered vaporizer that mimics tobacco smoking. It works by heating up a nicotine liquid, called “juice.”

  • Nicotine juice (or e-juice) comes in various flavors and nicotine levels. e-liquid is composed of five ingredients: vegetable glycerin (a material used in all types of food and personal care products, like toothpaste) and propylene glycol (a solvent most commonly used in fog machines.) propylene glycol is the ingredient that produces thicker clouds of vapor.
  • Proponents of e-cigs argue that the practice is healthier than traditional cigarettes because users are only inhaling water vapor and nicotine.

 

Why its hard to regulate them? As e-cigarettes contain nicotine and not tobacco, they do not fall within the ambit of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA), which mandates stringent health warnings on the packaging and advertisements of tobacco products.

Need for regulation: The current unregulated sale of e-cigarettes is dangerous for a country like India where the number of smokers is on the decline (WHO Global Report, 2015) as it increases the possibility of e-cigarettes becoming a gateway for smoking by inducing nicotine addiction and perpetuating smoking by making it more attractive, thereby encouraging persons to become users of tobacco as well as e-cigarettes.

 

WHO report on e- cigarettes and effects:

  • As per the report, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) (also known as e-cigarettes) emits nicotine, the addictive component of tobacco products. In addition to dependence, nicotine can have adverse effects on the development of the foetus during pregnancy and may contribute to cardiovascular disease.
  • The WHO report further says that although nicotine itself is not a carcinogen, it may function as a “tumour promoter” and seems to be involved in the biology of malignant disease, as well as of neurodegeneration.
  • Foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure may have long-term consequences for brain development, potentially leading to learning and anxiety disorders.
  • The evidence is sufficient to warn children and adolescents, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age against ENDS use and nicotine.

 

Why ban them? Studies say ENDS have cancer-causing properties, are highly addictive and do not offer a safer alternative to tobacco-based products. Experts say e-cigarettes are just a mechanism to deliver nicotine in an attractive format.

Way ahead:

The government should also impose appropriate restrictions on the sale and advertisement, online and otherwise, of e-cigarettes, including proper health warnings, in order to plug the existing regulatory vacuum. This should be done with immediate effect, and simultaneously the government should also commission independent scientific research on the benefits and risks posed by these products in the Indian context.

 

Sources: the hindu.

 

Mains Question: What are E-cigarettes? What are the potential health risks involved by smoking them? How do these differ from the conventional cigarettes? Explain.


Facts for Prelims:

GIC India chief awarded Freedom of the City of London:

Context: The Chairman and Managing Director of the General Insurance Corporation (GIC) of India, the country’s reinsurance major, has been awarded the Freedom of the City of London in recognition of her work to promote insurance ties between India and the UK.

What is it? The Freedom of the City of London dates back to the 13th century and has since developed into an honour bestowed upon individuals who make an impact in the financial hub of London, referred to as the City or the Square Mile.

 

Hong Kong Overtakes Japan as World’s Third Largest Stock Market:

Context: Hong Kong’s equity market has overtaken Japan to be the world’s third largest in value, behind only the U.S. and mainland China.

 

Bold Kurukshetra–2019:

Bold Kurukshetra is a Joint Military Exercise of India and Singapore. The latest edition is being held at Babina Cantonment of Jhansi. The joint exercise is aimed at developing military technology, enhance the maritime security and bolster the nations’ fight against terrorism.

 

International Day of Human Space Flight:

Context: The International Day of Human Space Flight was observed across the world on April 12, 2019. The day celebrates the anniversary of the first ever human space flight undertaken by Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet Union citizen then. The spacecraft was launched by Vostok-K launch vehicle.

 

SpaceX launches its first commercial flight with Falcon Heavy:

Context: US space flight company SpaceX recently carried out its first commercial launch with its Falcon Heavy rocket by placing a Saudi satellite in orbit. The 13,000-pound Saudi Arabian telecommunication satellite is operated by Arabsat and is expected to provide television, internet and mobile phone service to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

 

Google ‘Wing’ launches first drone delivery service in Australia:

Context: Air delivery service developer ‘Wing’, owned by Google parent company Alphabet, began delivering its first orders to customers in Canberra, Australia through flying drones. The drones will deliver food and drinks as well as medication directly to clients’ homes. Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) gave its approval after testing the safety of the drones, its traffic management system, drone pilot training and operational plans.

Bamboo rice:

Context: Four decades later, bamboo rice shows up in Odisha. The rare variety, which was last harvested in Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary in 1979, grows twice or thrice in a century

What is Bamboo Rice?

Bamboo rice is special rice that is grown out of a dying bamboo shoot. When the bamboo shoot breathes its last, it flowers into a rare variety of rice seeds, which are known as bamboo rice.

The Process of Storing Bamboo Rice:

Given the unpredictable flowering and thorniness of the bamboo, this makes no easy rice harvest. To get perfect polished bamboo rice, the area around the base of each bamboo is cleaned and all the debris formed is removed. The base is then smoothed with a slush of clay and kept to dry. Once dried, the bamboo rice is then stored in to the prepared surface and gathered to be consumed.

 


Summaries of important Editorials:

Electoral Bonds Scheme: key objections vs government’s arguments:

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/electoral-bonds-scheme-key-objections-vs-governments-arguments-5671429/.

 

Context: On- going hearing against Electoral Bonds scheme.

 

What is the Electoral Bonds Scheme?

  • The Finance Bill, 2017 introduced “electoral bonds” — interest-free bearer bonds (like Promissory Notes) that can be purchased from specified branches of the State Bank of India in a designated 10-day window in every quarter of the financial year.
  • The scheme, which was notified on January 2, 2018, allows individuals and domestic companies to present these bonds — issued in multiples of Rs 1,000, 10,000, 1 lakh, 10 lakh, and 1 crore — to political parties of their choice, which have to redeem them within 15 days.
  • Buyers of the bonds have to submit full KYC details at the time of buying. But the beneficiary political party is not required to reveal the identity of the entity that has given it the bond(s).

 

On what grounds has the scheme been challenged in court? 

 

The petitioners have stated that the Electoral Bonds Scheme has “opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations to political parties and anonymous financing by Indian as well as foreign companies which can have serious repercussions on the Indian democracy”.

The scheme, they have said, has “removed the caps on campaign donations by companies and have legalised anonymous donations”. This poses a “serious danger to the autonomy of the country and are bound to adversely affect electoral transparency, encourage corrupt practices in politics, and have made the unholy nexus between politics and corporate houses more opaque and treacherous and is bound to be misused by special interest groups and corporate lobbyists”.

 

The petitioners have raised four major objections:

  1. Ordinary citizens will not be able to know who is donating how much money to which political party, and the bonds “increase the anonymity of political donations”.
  2. The requirement to disclose in the profit and loss account the name of the political party to which a donation has been made, has also been removed.
  3. With the removal of the 7.5% cap on the net profits of the last three years of a company, corporate funding has increased manifold, as there is now no limit to how much a company, including loss-making ones, can donate. This opens up the possibility of companies being brought into existence by unscrupulous elements primarily for routing funds to political parties through anonymous and opaque instruments like electoral bonds.
  4. The contribution received by any eligible political party in the form of electoral bonds will be exempt from income-tax as per Section 13A of the Income Tax Act.

 

Does the Election Commission agree?

Not entirely. But it has its own concerns about the scheme. What are they?

  1. Certain provisions of the Finance Act, 2017 and corresponding amendments carried out in the Income-Tax Act, the Representation of the People Act, and the Companies Act will have serious repercussions/ impact on the transparency aspect of political finance/ funding of political parties.
  2. Any donation received by a political party through an electoral bond has been taken out of the ambit of reporting under the Contribution Report and if information on the money received through such bonds is not reported, it cannot be ascertained whether the political party has taken any donation in violation of provisions of the Representation of the People Act, which “prohibits the political parties from taking donations from government companies and foreign sources”.
  3. Then there is also the issue of laws being changed to allow political parties to receive contributions from foreign companies, which would “allow unchecked foreign funding of political parties in India which could lead to Indian policies being influenced by foreign companies”.

 

What are the government’s arguments on these issues?

The government has been defending the scheme on the ground that it limits the use of cash in political funding, thus bringing more transparency, and provides a shield to donors by granting them anonymity.

  • The introduction of the scheme “has brought in a marked shift from the old electoral system which suffered from many lacunas” as “massive amounts of political donations were being made in cash, by individuals/corporates, using illicit means of funding” and identity of the donors was not known and “the ‘system’ was wholly opaque and ensured complete anonymity”.
  • All payments made for the issuance of the electoral bonds are accepted only by means of a demand draft, cheque or through the Electronic Clearing System or direct debit to the buyers’ account. No black money can, therefore, be used for the purchase of these bonds.
  • Buyers will have to comply with KYC requirements, and the beneficiary political party has to “disclose the receipt of this money and must account for the same”. Also, limiting the time for which the bond is valid “ensures that the bonds do not become a parallel currency”.
  • According to the government, “non-disclosure of the identity of the donor is the core objective of the scheme… in order to safeguard the donor from political victimisation”, and “the records of the purchaser are always available in the banking channel and may be retrieved as and when required by enforcement agencies”.
  • Donations through bonds received from a domestic company having a majority stake is permitted, subject to its compliance with KYC norms and FEMA guidelines. Therefore, the electoral bonds attempt at bringing greater transparency, ensuring KYC compliance and keeping an audit trail in comparison to the earlier opaque system of cash donations.