Government Schemes & Policies
- MDWS launches Swachh Survekshan Grameen 2018
- Social media hub is like creating surveillance state: SC
Issues related to Health & Education
- NCPCR moots model for school fees
- Govt sets up task force on ways to reduce import
- PM Modi lays foundation stone of 340 km-long Purvanchal Expressway
- Century’s longest Lunar Eclipse to take place on July end
Science & Technology
- South Africa unveils super radio telescope – ‘MeerKAT’
Key Facts for Prelims
- Shwet Ashwa Drass Expedition
- Dharohar Bhawan
- Ban on photography at protected monuments lifted
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Government Schemes & Policies
MDWS launches Swachh Survekshan Grameen 2018
Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) has launched Swachh Survekshan Grameen 2018 (SSG 2018).
What is SSG?
- Swachh Survekshan Grameen (SSG) is a rural cleanliness survey to rank all states and districts on basis of qualitative and quantitative evaluation.
All about SSG 2018:
Objective of SSG 2018:
- The objective of SSG 2018 is to undertake ranking of states and districts on basis of their performance attained on key quantitative and qualitative Swachh Bharat Mission-Grameen (SBM-G) parameters.
Criteria of SSG-2018
- The rankings will be based on taking into account set of comprehensive cleanliness parameters.
- The criteria of SSG-2018 include survey of public places, citizens’ perspective of cleanliness, their recommendations and data from SBM-G.
Coverage of SSG-2018:
- As part of SSG-2018, total 6,980 villages in 698 districts across India will be covered.
- It will cover total 34,000 public places namely schools, anganwadis, public health centres, haat/bazaars/religious places in these villages.
- The SSG 2018 will assign 65% weightage to findings and outcome and 35% to service level parameters to be obtained from Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) of the MDWS.
- The weights to different elements of SSG are direct observation of sanitation in public places (30%), citizen’s feedback on sanitation parameters (35%), service level progress on sanitation progress in the country as per SBMG-MIS (35%).
Who will conduct this survey?
- The SSG 2018 will be conducted by independent survey agency in all districts from 1st to 31st August 2018.
- It will also take feedback from over 50 lakh citizens on SBM related issues through direct interaction as well as online feedback.
The top performing states and districts are expected to be awarded on 2nd October 2018.[Ref: PIB, The Hindu]
Social media hub is like creating surveillance state: SC
The Supreme Court took a strong note on a plea challenging the proposed move of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to set up a social media hub for monitoring online data, observing that it will be “like creating a surveillance state”.
- Earlier in January this year, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had come up with the plan to set up a ‘Social Media Communication Hub’ that would help it keep a tab on trending news in districts and gather feedback on the Centre’s flagship schemes.
- The proposal to set up such a hub had turned controversial, as many called it an indirect measure to “snoop” on and influence voters.
What is ‘Social Media Hub’?
- The ‘Social Media Hub’ proposes to monitor social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even email) handles at the very local level in multiple languages to carry out “sentiment analysis”, track down the influence-making social media users and to categorise the conversations on social media into positive, negative and neutral sections.
- The stated aim of the project was to enable the government to understand the impact of social media campaigns on welfare schemes and improve the reach of such campaigns.
- It also aimed to track real time the way social media receives news on government’s schemes and announcements and also political events.
- As per the proposal, the project is meant to strengthen the social media division and recruit social media managers to be deployed in 712 districts of the country.
Social media managers:
- Under this project, social media managers would be employed on a contractual basis in each district to be the “eyes and ears” of the government.
- These persons were supposed to provide real-time updates from the ground and take people’s feedback on the government’s policies.
Role of social media managers:
- Social media manager will be entrusted with the tasks of keeping a close eye on the regional and local media, collecting data of regional media and of local events, providing content for social media and supporting media units at the regional level for social media publicity.
- They will also monitor local editions of newspapers, local cable channels, local audio channels (FM) and key local social media handles for important local developments.
- They will make a daily analysis report incorporating local sentiments to be sent to region head in the PIB as well as the media hub (command centre).
Significance of ‘Social Media Hub’:
- Information received from this ‘Social Media Hub’ would help the government in formulating policies, schemes or rectify any flaws in their implementation at the ground level so that the ultimate beneficiary who is the common man is benefited and has a direct way to communicate any complaints regarding the same to the Government.
Concerns raised by the petitioner over the social media hub:
- The project had two aspects — “mass surveillance apparatus that aims at collecting and analysing huge volumes of data, and profiling people based on that” and “utilising this data to predict the mood of people online and issue responses, including those targeted at individuals or groups”. The social media analytical tool is expected to ‘listen’ to conversations on all major digital channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, as well as blogs and news channels.
Thus, the petition alleged that such intrusive action on the part of the government, is not only without the authority of law, but brazenly infringes her fundamental right to freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Such action of the government also violates her right of privacy.[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]
Issues related to Health & Education
NCPCR moots model for school fees
The apex body for child rights, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has prepared guidelines for regulating admission fee levied by private unaided schools.
- The Commission has also recommended setting up a district-level body which will consult parents and teachers while determining school fee on a case-by-case basis.
What’s the issue?
- India has 3,50,000 private, unaided schools — 24% of all schools — where 75 million children, or 38% of all students, study. Such schools do not receive any grant from the government and have to generate their own revenue for sustenance.
- Many cities across India have of late seen parents protest arbitrary fee hikes by such schools. In Delhi and Mumbai, for instance, the fee hike in private, unaided schools in last year varied between 10 % and 40 %.
The NCPCR came up with a framework of recommendations after they received reports that children were being harassed by school administrations and that they considered committing suicide over the fee hike issue.
- The draft regulations propose 10% yearly cap on the fee hike permissible by private, unaided schools.
- It suggests setting up district fee regulatory authority in states to monitor school fee increases.
- It suggests formula for determining fees, based on school’s location, costs incurred, revenue earned, student strength and other parameters. It proposes fines on schools if they violates uniform fee framework.
- According to the draft regulations, if a school violates the norms provided in the uniform fee framework, it will be fined 1% of the revenue it generates in the first instance, which will increase to 2 % and 5% for a second and third violation. For any subsequent violation, NCPCR has proposed that the school be put in a “no admission category” and barred from admitting new students.
- Although fixing school fees is the domain of state governments, in the absence of a standard fee policy for unaided schools, there has been a growing clamour for central regulations.
- NCPCR has stepped in to draft the proposed fee regulations for unaided schools, citing Section 13 of the Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005 and Section 32 of Right to Education (RTE) Act, which gives NCPCR the authority to review safeguards under the law to protect of child rights and recommend measures.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
- NCPCR is a statutory body under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
- The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.
Govt sets up task force on ways to reduce import
The government has set up a high-level task force under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha to identify various items and policy interventions to reduce dependence on import.
- The task force would suggest ways to cut import of those items which can be manufactured or explored in the country.
- The task force includes secretaries from departments of commerce, industrial policy and promotion, skill development, revenue, defence production, steel, petroleum, electronics and telecommunications.
Significance of this move:
- The move assumes significance as India is heavily dependent on imports of several items such as oil, electronic hardware, machinery, ingredients for pharmaceuticals, gold and chemicals. On an average, India’s imports stand at around USD 450 billion per year.
- Although increase in imports of intermediates and raw materials reflects boost in economic activities, inbound shipments of final goods impact domestic manufacturers.
- Trade experts have raised concerns over high dependence on pharmaceutical ingredients or APIs from China. At present, over 60 per cent of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are imported from China.
PM Modi lays foundation stone of 340 km-long Purvanchal Expressway
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid the foundation stone of Purvanchal Expressway in Uttar Pradesh.
- The six-lane Purvanchal Expressway is being touted as India’s longest expressway that will connect Lucknow to Ghazipur.
- The Project is being implemented on Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) Mode.
About the Purvanchal Expressway:
- The Purvanchal Expressway, which is 340-km-long, will connect Lucknow with Barabanki, Amethi, Sultanpur, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur.
- The Purvanchal Expressway will be linked with the Lucknow-Agra Expressway and Yamuna Expressway which connects Agra to Delhi and will considerably bring down the travel time between Delhi and eastern Uttar Pradesh.
- The Purvanchal Expressway will be linked with Varanasi through a separate link.
Significance of the Purvanchal Expressway project:
- The Purvanchal Expressway project will not just increase connectivity but also give a boost to agriculture, commerce, tourism and industries besides social and economic development in the areas through which it will pass.
- With the Construction of Purvanchal Expressway, accelerated convenient mode of Transportation shall be available between the Eastern boundary of the State and the National Capital via State capital through other similar Expressways in the State viz. ‘Agra to Lucknow Expressway’ and ‘Yamuna Expressway’
- Being an Access Controlled Expressway, it would provide benefits like fuel saving, time saving and Control in Pollution level, along with reduction in accidents.
- The areas covered by this Expressway would be benefited in Social & Economical way. The agriculture, commerce, tourism and other industrial development will also get a fillip.
- Industrial Training Institutes, Educational Institutes, Medical Institutes, New Townships and other various Commercial set ups shall be developed, especially near the Expressway areas, which will result into more opportunities for employment in the region. The overall social/economic development in the state will get a boost.
- The proposed Expressway will prove to be a catalyst for development of the region and State.
- The proposed Purvanchal Expressway getting connected with existing Agra-Lucknow Expressway shall become a vast Industrial Corridor connecting Eastern boundary to Western boundary of the state which will result into overall development of the state.
What is Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) Model?
- EPC is a model of contract between the government and private sector players for public infrastructure building.
- Under this system the entire project is funded by the government.
- The EPC entails the contractor build the project by designing, installing and procuring necessary labour and land to construct the infrastructure, either directly or by subcontracting.
- Under EPC model the contractor is legally responsible to complete the project under some fixed predetermined timeline and may also involve scope for penalty in case of time overrun.
- In EPC as all the clearances, land acquisition and regulatory norms have to be completed by the government itself and the private players do not have to get itself involved in these time taking procedures.
Century’s longest Lunar Eclipse to take place on July end
Union Ministry of Earth Sciences has announced that Century’s (2001 AD to 2100 AD) longest total lunar eclipse of 1 hour 43 minutes will occur on July 27-28, 2018.
- The entire eclipse will be visible from all parts of India.
- It will also be visible in region covering Asia, Australia, and Russia – except northern part, Europe, Africa, east of South America and Antarctica.
What is a Lunar eclipse?
- A lunar eclipse is a spectacular celestial show, during which the bright, pearly-white disc of the full Moon turns dark, and sometimes takes on the colour of dark copper, or even dried blood.
- A lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, the Earth and the Moon are so aligned that for a period of time, the full Moon passes through the shadow of Earth in space (called Earth’s Umbra).
- This typically happens up to three times a year.
- Unlike with solar eclipses, there’s no need to wear protective eyewear when witnessing a lunar eclipse. In other words, these events can be viewed safely with the naked eye.
The last lunar eclipse occurred on Jan. 31, an event that was dubbed a “super blue blood moon.”
What happens during a lunar eclipse?
- As the moon passes into Earth’s shadow, it will dim and darken. The moon will turn this copper, blood-red color. It will turn a deep, deep red when it’s at the greatest point in the eclipse.
- This dramatic coloring is actually caused by Earth’s atmosphere, which scatters light from the sun and casts it onto the face of the moon.
What’s the best time to view the lunar eclipse?
- The best time to see the eclipse depends on where you are in the Eastern Hemisphere.
- According to NASA, the best places to view the celestial event from start to finish are in eastern Africa, the Middle East, India and central Asia.
Why is this month’s lunar eclipse so long?
- Unlike solar eclipses, which have short-lived periods of totality, the peaks of lunar eclipses can be quite lengthy. This month’s lunar eclipse is particularly long because of the moon’s position as it slips into Earth’s shadow.
- When the sun, Earth and the moon are aligned, Earth casts a shadow that projects out into the shape of an imaginary cone.
- The longest lunar eclipses occur when the moon moves right down the center of this cone. In shorter eclipses, the moon won’t pass through most of that shadow.
- Coincidentally, the moon will also be at its most distant point from Earth (i.e. apogee) in its monthly orbit in late July, meaning the moon will appear smaller in the night sky and will take longer to completely pass through Earth’s shadow.
Why is it termed Blood Moon or Copper Moon?
- During a total lunar eclipse, though the Moon gets shadowed by the Earth, sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, break down in its constituent colours and the red part gets scattered by the atmosphere and falls on the Moon’s surface, thereby making it take on a reddish copper hue. For this reason since antiquity, a totally eclipsed Moon is called a “Blood Moon”.
- It has no other special relevance other than the fact that the colour of the Moon looks blackish-red.
What is Blue Moon?
- This full Moon occurs twice in a calendar month, the last one being on January 2. The next one, on January 31, is termed a “Blue Moon”.
- The Moon does not turn blue but historically the second full Moon of an English calendar month is termed as a Blue Moon. Hence the oft-quoted phrase of a rare occurrence of any event as “once in a Blue Moon”.
What is Super Moon?
- The coming lunar eclipse will be more spectacular because during the eclipse, the Moon will be near its perigee (the Moon reaches its perigee on January 30 at around 15:28 hrs. IST) and hence it will look larger than an average full Moon and is termed a Super Moon.
Science & Technology
South Africa unveils super radio telescope – ‘MeerKAT’
Allowing scientists to better explore the universe, South Africa has unveiled Africa’s most advanced telescope- ‘MeerKAT’.
- The 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope is a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope.
- It will be integrated into Phase 1 of the mid-frequency component of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) instrument, which when fully operational in the late 2020s would be the world’s biggest and most powerful radio telescope.
- It is a followup to the KAT 7 (Karoo Array Telescope), built in the vast semi-desert Karoo region north of Cape Town to demonstrate South Africa’s ability to host the SKA. It will be the biggest radio telescope of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
Significance of MeerKAT:
- MeerKAT will address some of the key science questions in modern astrophysics – how did galaxies form, how are they evolving, how did we come to be here.
- Besides, the launch of the Meerkat further strengthens the prospects of a larger role for South Africa in the construction of the SKA, and promises numerous benefits for the country and the region as a whole.
About the SKA project:
- The SKA project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area.
- The SKA, the world’s largest telescope, will be about 50-100 times more sensitive than any other radio telescope on earth. It will have image resolution quality exceeding the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 50 times. This will give the SKA unprecedented scope in observations, enabling it to produce transformational science.
- It is being built by an international consortium, including Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and will be co-hosted in Africa and Australia.
- It is designed to probe the edges of the universe and help scientists answer fundamental questions in astronomy, physics and cosmology, including the nature of dark energy and dark matter.
Key Facts for Prelims
Shwet Ashwa Drass Expedition
- Shwet Ashwa, the elite motorcycle display team of the Corps of Military Police, commenced a motor cycle expedition from Bengaluru to Drass on 2nd July 2018.
- The expedition is a tribute to the soldiers who laid down their lives during the Kargil war.
- Dharohar Bhawan is a recently inaugurated new headquarters building of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
- It houses Central Archaeological Library, with a collection of 1.5 lakh books and journals.
Ban on photography at protected monuments lifted
- Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has issued order allowing photography within premises of protected monuments and sites.
- Under the new order, photography will be allowed within premises of Centrally protected monuments maintained and managed by ASI.
- However, photography will remain prohibited near Ajanta Caves, Leh Palace (both housing paintings that can be damaged by camera flash) and mausoleum of Taj Mahal.