Polity & Governance
- ‘War against malaria far from over’
- Centre to finance digital discounts
- Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016 Passed by Parliament
Bilateral & International Relations
- India Signs Grant Agreement with the IBRD
- 6th Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development
Defence & Security Issues
- India Overtakes Saudi Arabia to Become Fourth-Largest Military Spender
- Centre to review IT Act to bolster cybersecurity
Science & Technology
- NASA to build robotic spacecraft to repair, refuel satellites
Key Facts for Prelims
- EKUVERIN Exercise 2016
- Indra Navy – 2016
Polity & Governance
‘War against malaria far from over’
According to the recently released World Malaria report, the global fight against malaria is in “urgent need” of more funding.
- The report was released by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Highlights of the report:
- There were 212 million new cases of malaria and 4,29,000 deaths worldwide in 2015.
- Further, nearly 78% of Plasmodium vivax malaria cases in 2015 occurred in just four countries: Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan.
- Despite the billions of dollars spent on malaria programmes, too many people are missing out on available resources like medicines and bed nets that protect against mosquitoes that spread the disease.
- Surveillance systems catch fewer than 20% of cases. The vast majority cases are in Africa. About 70% of deaths are in children under the age of five.
WHO had set a goal of cutting malaria cases to “near zero” by the end of last year. It fell far short, and now is aiming to reduce malaria cases and deaths by at least 90% by 2030.[Ref: The Hindu]
Centre to finance digital discounts
The Centre has decided to bear the burden imposed on public sector firms on account of the many discounts and incentives offered to promote digital payments.
- Last week, the government has offered many discounts on transaction charges and merchant discount rates that accompany payments using cards or online.
Various efforts taken by government to promote digital payments:
Following measures are being put in place to enable a cashless transactions ecosystem.
- A new expenditure head in the exchequer’s accounts that will absorb the costs of incentives provided will be created.
- A non-tax receipt portal, bharakosh.gov.in, has been developed to enable users to make non-tax payments to the government for 237 categories including spectrum charges, RTI application fees, and purchase forms online, without going to either a bank or a government office.
- Mobile banking through interoperable automatic teller machines (ATM) has been launched, 81,000 ATMs or 12 banks are already live and another 15,000 machines are expected to go live shortly”.
- All 5.5 lakh fair price shops run by the government are being equipped with micro ATMs/PoS terminals, which will enable them to undertake digital payment transactions or even be banking correspondents.
- A standardised, interoperable multi-purpose, multimodal National Common Mobility card is being developed for smart cities and is ready for testing on a pilot basis.
Going forward, all government organisations, public sector undertakings and authorities have been advised to review rules and regulations to support digital payments, adopt payment-related solutions and absorb transaction fees and activate payments facility through the ‘Pay Gov India’ if they have such a facility.[Ref: The Hindu]
Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016 Passed by Parliament
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014, which was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2014, was recently cleared with 119 amendments.
- The legislation, drafted to make Indian laws compliant with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, will replace the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995.
Highlights of the bill:
- The number of disabilities listed rises from seven in the 1995 Act through 19 in the 2014 bill to 21 after the amendments, including acid attack and Parkinson’s disease.
- Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability have been added for the first time. Acid Attack Victims have been included.
- The Bill has also laid down provisions to allow the central government to notify any other condition as a disability.
- Now individuals with at least 40% of a disability are also entitled to benefits such as reservations in education and employment, preference in government schemes and others.
- The bill sets the government a two-year deadline to ensure persons with disability get barrier-free access in all kinds of physical infrastructure and transport systems.
- It recognises the need for reservation for them in promotion and makes special mention of the rights of disabled women and children.
- Disabled persons have the equal right to own and inherit movable and immovable property, as well as control their financial affairs in par with others.
- According to the bill, the District courts may bestow upon two types of guardianship: limited guardian (who has to take joint decisions with mentally ill person) and plenary guardian (who can take decisions on behalf of mentally ill person, without consulting them).
- District level committees will be constituted by the State Governments to address local concerns of PwDs. Details of their constitution and the functions of such committees would be prescribed by the State Governments in the rules.
- Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.
- Central and state advisory boards on Disability will be constituted Central and State governments respectively. They will advise governments on policies and programmes on disability. The will also review the activities of organisations dealing with disabled persons.
- National and State Fund will be created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities. The existing National Fund for PwDs and the Trust Fund for Empowerment of PwDs will be subsumed with the National Fund.
- The bill provides for imprisonment ranging from six months to two years, along with a fine ranging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 5 lakh, for discriminating against differently abled persons.
Bilateral & International Relations
India Signs Grant Agreement with the IBRD
India has signed an agreement with International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) for Global Environment Facility Grant of USD 5.19 Million for “Additional Financing for Financing Energy Efficiency at MSMEs Project- Programmatic Framework for Energy Efficiency”.
- The parent project – India: Financing Energy Efficiency at MSME Project (FEEMP) became effective on September 29, 2010 with an original GEF Grant amount of US$ 11.3 million.
- The Development Objective of the project was to increase demand for energy efficiency investments in select micro, small and medium enterprise clusters and to build their capacity to access commercial finance.
- The additional grant is expected to scale up the initiatives taken up under the parent project. At present, the parent project has earned a Satisfactory rating towards the achievement of Project Development Objective (PDO).
- The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) is an international financial institution that offers loans to middle-income developing countries.
- The IBRD is the first of five member institutions that compose the World Bank Group and is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.
- It was established in 1944 with the mission of financing the reconstruction of European nations devastated by World War II.
- The IBRD and its concessional lending arm, the International Development Association, are collectively known as the World Bank as they share the same leadership and staff.
- The IBRD provides commercial-grade or concessional financing to sovereign states to fund projects that seek to improve transportation and infrastructure, education, domestic policy, environmental consciousness, energy investments, healthcare, access to food and potable water, and access to improved sanitation.
6th Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development
The sixth edition of Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) began in New Delhi.
- It was launched by Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu.
- The sixth edition of ‘Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing & Urban Development (APMCHUD)’ seeks to address issues ranging from crowded city centres to peripheral expansion, metropolitan based urban population growth, megacities and urban corridors, among others.
- During the conference, ministers and senior officials from 68 countries in the region will deliberate on challenges of urban planning and management.
- The conference will come out with a Delhi Declaration and implementation plan for aligning urban development strategies of member countries with the New Urban Agenda adopted at Quito, Eucador for the next 20 years.
- The theme of the declaration will be on ‘Emerging Urban Forms Policy Responses and Government Structures’.
Significance of the conference:
- The APMCHUD is the first such conference after UN Habitat-III global conference on sustainable development held in Quito this September.
- It will help in furthering the new urban agenda adopted at the recent conference of UN Habitat-III.
- The conference assumes significance considering that APAC region accounts for 60% of the world population and 55% of global urban population.
About New Urban Agenda:
- It was adopted at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (also known as “Habitat III” conference) held in Quito, Ecuador.
- It sets the global vision of sustainable urbanization for the next 20 years.
- It is a set of 175 commitments that countries need to adhere to tackle challenges of urbanization.
- It is considered as roadmap for building cities that can serve as engines of prosperity and centres of social and cultural well-being while protecting the environment.
- It provides guidance for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and provides the underpinning for actions to address climate change.
- APMCHUD is an intergovernmental mechanism for collaboration and cooperation in the field of housing and development among Asia Pacific countries.
- It was established under the aegis and support of UN-Habitat.
- It is consultative mechanism on the promotion of sustainable development of housing and urban development in Asia-Pacific region.
Defence & Security Issues
India Overtakes Saudi Arabia to Become Fourth-Largest Military Spender
According to the recently released report, India has become the world’s fourth largest defence spender.
- The report is titled, 2016 IHS Jane’s Defence Budgets report. It was published by US research firm IHS Inc.
Highlights of the report:
- United States, China, and the UK remain the top three defence spender in the world. In 2016, the total global defence spending increased to $1.57 trillion.
- US tops with mammoth defence spending of $622 billion. China is second with defence spending of $191.75 billion.
- India has surpassed Russia, France, Japan and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s fourth largest defence spender.
- India had spent $50.6 billion in 2016 on defence sector, up from $46.6 billion the year 2015. Thus, India spends some 1.8% of its GDP on defence. Of this, up to 36% is spent on capital acquisition.
- Over the next few years, India will re-emerge as a key growth market for defence suppliers to fulfill its military focused modernisation. India will surpass the UK in defence spending by 2018.
- India needs to spend some $130 billion to modernise its military over the next seven years.
- India also has been looking at increasing share of domestic manufacturing in defence goods. The foreign direct investment (FDI) limit for the defence sector in India also has been raised to 49%.
- India’s defence and aerospace market is among the most attractive globally. Government is keen to leverage this advantage to promote investments in the sector.
Centre to review IT Act to bolster cybersecurity
The government is mulling a review of the more than 15-year-old Information Technology (IT), Act to strengthen cybersecurity infrastructure, following the push for digital payments post-demonetisation.
- A closed group, under IT Secretary Aruna Sundarajan, has been set up to look into various aspects of the Act in line with the changing times.
- The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has also set up a separate ‘digital payments’ division under Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) — its cyber security arm — to monitor and strengthen cashless transactions.
- All digital payments agencies have also been asked to report to CERT-In any unusual activity that they see on their platforms.
Why there is a need to review IT act?
- The IT Act came out in 2000. Since then, it has not been reviewed. However, since we are moving towards a digital economy now, the act should be reviewed to see if there is a need to re-look at the IT Act architecture to make it more of a deterrent for cyber criminals.
- Besides, Venezuela, which like India has withdrawn its highest currency note from the market, has also cautioned New Delhi about cybercrimes that target the digital economy.
Science & Technology
NASA to build robotic spacecraft to repair, refuel satellites
NASA is building a robotic spacecraft dubbed as ‘Restore-L Spacecraft’ equipped with the tools and technologies needed to repair or refuel satellites currently in orbit.
- NASA has awarded a USD 127 million contract to the California-based Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto for Restore-L Spacecraft Bus and Support Services.
- Space Systems/Loral will provide spacecraft bus, critical hardware and services for the development, deployment and operations of the Restore-L mission.
- They also will provide related services to accomplish mission integration, test, launch and operations.
- The Restore-L Project is managed within NASA’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
- Restore-L is a free-flying mission projected to launch in 2020 to perform in-orbit satellite servicing in low-Earth orbit.
Key Facts for Prelims
EKUVERIN Exercise 2016
- The seventh edition of India, Maldives bilateral EKUVERIN Exercise 2016 began at Kadhdhoo, Laamu Atoll, Maldives.
- The Exercise is a 14 day platoon level joint military exercise between the Indian Army & the Maldives National Defence Force conducted on a yearly basis.
- The aim of the exercise is to conduct military training with emphasis on amphibious & counter insurgency/ counter terrorism operations with a view to enhance interoperability between the two armies.
- The previous edition of the exercise was held in India at Trivandrum, Kerala.
Indra Navy – 2016
- The ninth edition of exercise INDRA NAVY, an annual bilateral maritime exercise between Indian Navy and Russian Navy began in the Bay of Bengal.
- The primary aim of exercise INDRA NAVY-16 is to increase inter-operability amongst the two navies and develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.
- Initiated in 2003, the exercise has matured over the years with increase in scope, complexity of operations and level of participation.
- The scope of the exercise includes wide-ranging professional interactions in harbor phase and a diverse canvas of operational activities across a spectrum of maritime operations at sea.