Polity & Governance
- MDWS Bags Award for best implementation of E-office
- Pune tops in urban governance, Bengaluru worst, finds survey
- World Consumers Rights Day
Issues related to Health & Education
- CCRAS Developed a AYUSH Drug QOL-2C for Cancer Patients
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves agreement for avoidance of double taxation between India, Iran
Science & Technology
- Neutrino project gets environmental nod
- Surprising meteorite discovery points to early solar system chaos
Key Facts for Prelims
- Bidya Devi Bhandari, Nepal’s 1st female president, wins second term
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Polity & Governance
MDWS Bags Award for best implementation of E-office
The government has presented the Certificates of Appreciation to 34 Ministries/departments for implementation of e-office programme in their respective ministries/departments.
- The awards have been given by the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARPG), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India.
Who won the award for best implementation of E-office?
- The Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) won award for implementation of e-office software. MDWS has the distinction of making 100 percent use of e-Office.
Key facts about e- office programme:
- E-Office is one of the Mission Mode Projects under Digital India Programme.
- The e-Office solution enables core operations of the Government at all levels to be performed in a virtual ‘paper-less’ environment, including the E-leave, E-tour, Knowledge Management, Notice Board, Download Forms, Inventory Control etc.
- This application is, thus, a major step in realizing the objective of an open and responsive Government.
- The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DAR&PG) is the nodal Department for implementation of e-Office project.
- National Informatics Centre (NIC) is the technical partner in this project.
Objectives of the e- office programme:
- To improve efficiency, consistency and effectiveness of government responses.
- To reduce turnaround time and to meet the demands of the citizens charter.
- To provide for effective resource management to improve the quality of administration.
- To reduce processing delays.
- To establish transparency and accountability.
Pune tops in urban governance, Bengaluru worst, finds survey
Recently, the 5th edition of the Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) by Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy has been released.
About the survey:
- The objective of the survey was to measure the preparedness of cities to deliver high quality infrastructure and services in the long term by evaluating “city systems”.
- The survey spans 23 Indian cities and factors in answers to 89 questions. The cities were scored based on the quality of laws, policies, institutions and institutional processes that together help govern them.
- ASICS groups questions into four categories: urban planning & design; urban capacities & resources; transparency, accountability & participation; and empowered & legitimate political representation.
Highlights of the survey report:
Performance of various cities:
- Pune, Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram top the country in terms of urban governance.
- Delhi and Mumbai figure in the sixth and ninth positions respectively.
- Among the medium cities (with a population of up to one million), Ranchi has broken into the top 10 with a score of 4.1. Bengaluru and Chandigarh (perceived as a planned city) figured at the bottom of the list.
- On a scale of 10, the 23 cities – many of which are part of the government’s flagship smart cities mission – scored between 3 and 5.1 on four key components of governance.
- A majority of its cities “grossly underprepared” to deliver a high quality of life in the long term. And many surveyed cities are far behind cities such as London, New York and Johannesburg, which topped global benchmarks with 8.8, 8.8 and 7.6 points respectively.
- The cities assessed in the study are found to be generating only 39% of the funds they spend on an average, with Patna raising just 17% on its own. Only Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Pune generate over 50% of the amount they spend from their own revenue.
- The study found that in several cities, their own revenues did not even cover staff salaries. “Lack of adequate revenue sources of their own severely constrains the ability of our cities to invest in infrastructure and service delivery.
- The pace of reforms in India has been painfully slow. Recurring floods, garbage crises, air pollution, fire accidents, building collapses and dengue outbreaks are symptoms of this deeper governance crisis in our cities.
- The survey also found urban capacities across cities suffering from rampant staff vacancies, inadequate domain experience of senior municipal officers, and powerless mayors and councils. Commissioners were found to have only have 2.7 years of experience in urban management on an average. Average staff vacancy stood at 35%, with Guwahati bottoming out at 60%.
- The mayor and councils in our cities are toothless. They don’t have full decision-making authority over critical functions such as planning, housing, water, environment, fire and emergency services.
- No city in India has effective policies to deter plan violations, a deficiency that leads to the mushrooming of slums and unauthorised colonies. While all its 23 cities scored zero on this parameter, London, New York and Johannesburg notched a perfect 10 out of 10.
- Moreover, most of the country’s town and country planning acts date back to the previous century. It has one planner per four lakh citizens (as opposed to 48 in the United States and 148 in the United Kingdom).
World Consumers Rights Day
The World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is celebrated every year on March 15 to pay solidarity with the international consumer movement and give more attention to promote basic rights of consumers.
- It provides an opportunity to promote the basic rights of all consumers, for demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and for protesting the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them.
- 2018 Theme: ‘Making digital marketplaces fairer’
- The first WCRD was observed on 15 March 1983 and has since become an important occasion for mobilizing citizen action.
- Consumers International (CI), which was founded in 1960 organises WCRD. It is the only independent and authoritative global voice for consumers and has over 220 member organisations in 115 countries around the world.
- Every year a theme is chosen for this day.
Steps to protect consumer rights in India:
- In India, 24th December is observed as National Consumer Day. On this day in 1986, Consumer Protection Act, 1986 had received the assent of the President.
- India adopted the Consumer Protection Act, later in 1986, thus providing a legal face to the Indian consumers.
- One of the strongest campaigns for addressal and protection of consumer rights in India, is “Jago Grahak Jago” which literally translates into, “wake up consumers”! This multimedia campaign from Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India is aimed at creating an aware consumer.
Issues related to Health & Education
CCRAS Developed a AYUSH Drug QOL-2C for Cancer Patients
The Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) has undertaken development of coded drug AYUSH QOL-2C for improving quality of life in cancer patients.
About Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS):
CCRAS is autonomous body under the Ministry of AYUSH.
- It is apex body in India for formulation, coordination, development and promotion of research on scientific lines in Ayurveda and Sowa-Rigpa system of medicine.
- It undertakes scientific activities through its 30 Institutes/Centres/Units located all over the country and also through collaborative studies with various Universities, Hospitals and Institutes.
- It is headquartered in New Delhi.
- Research activities of the Council include Medicinal Plant Research (Medico-Ethno Botanical Survey, Pharmacognosy and Tissue Culture), Drug Standardization, Pharmacological Research, Clinical Research, Literary Research & Documentation and Tribal Health Care Research Programme.
- CCRAS is actively involved in scientific process of drug development adopting prevalent guidelines such as Good Clinical Practices Guidelines for ASU drugs (GCP-ASU), Ministry of AYUSH and National ethical guidelines for Bio-Medical Research (ICMR), WHO guidelines for traditional medicines etc. as per requirement and as feasible through its peripheral institutes.
Recently, CCRAS has developed and commercialized the following two drugs:
- AYUSH 82 An Anti Diabetic Ayurvedic Formulation.
- AYUSH SG An Anti-Rheumatoid Arthritis preparation.
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves agreement for avoidance of double taxation between India, Iran
The Union Cabinet has approved an Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income between India and Iran.
Significance of the agreement:
- The Agreement will stimulate flow of investment, technology and personnel from India to Iran & vice versa, and will prevent double taxation.
- The Agreement will provide for exchange of information between the two Contracting Parties as per latest international standards.
- It will thus improve transparency in tax matters and will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.
What is Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS)?
- BEPS refers to tax planning strategies used by multinational companies, that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations where there is little or no economic activity, resulting in little or no overall corporate tax being paid.
- The project headed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was initiated by the G20 in 2012.
- The inclusive framework brings together over 100 countries and jurisdictions to collaborate on the implementation of the OECD/ G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Package.
- Developing countries have been engaged since the beginning of the BEPS Project.
What is DTAA?
A Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) is a tax treaty signed between two or more countries.
- Its key objective is that tax-payers in these countries can avoid being taxed twice for the same income.
- A DTAA applies in cases where a tax-payer resides in one country and earns income in another.
- DTAAs can either be comprehensive to cover all sources of income or be limited to certain areas such as taxing of income from shipping, air transport, inheritance, etc.
- In so far as India is concerned, the Central Government is authorized under Section 90 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 to enter into an Agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for avoidance of double taxation of income, for exchange of information for the prevention of evasion or avoidance of income-tax chargeable under the Income-tax Act, 1961.
- India has DTAAs with more than eighty countries, of which comprehensive agreements include those with Australia, Canada, Germany, Mauritius, Singapore, UAE, the UK and US.
Why is it important?
- DTAAs are intended to make a country an attractive investment destination by providing relief on dual taxation.
- Such relief is provided by exempting income earned abroad from tax in the resident country or providing credit to the extent taxes have already been paid abroad.
- DTAAs also provide for concessional rates of tax in some cases.
Science & Technology
Neutrino project gets environmental nod
The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project has got a fresh lease of life with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) taking it up as a special case and granting it environmental clearance to set up the lab in Bodi West hills in Tamil Nadu.
Conditions put forth by the committee:
While granting EC, the committee stipulated specific conditions, of which two are key for the project to take off.
- One is the consent to establish and operate to be obtained from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).
- Also, the INO team has to obtain the necessary forest and National Board for Wild Life clearances as per law. The Mathikettan Shola National Park in Idukki district, Kerala, is situated within five km from the project site.
About India-Based Neutrino Observatory (INO):
- It country’s most ambitious basic science project proposed to come up in Bodi west hills of Theni district of Tamil Nadu.
- It aims at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approximately 1200 meter.
- Its mandate is to conduct basic research on the elementary particle called neutrino.
- It is jointly supported by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science & Technology (DST), with DAE acting as the nodal agency.
- The observatory will be located underground in order to provide adequate shielding to the neutrino detector from cosmic background radiation.
- It will comprise a complex of caverns which will house detector which is 130 metres long, 26 metres wide and 30 metre high.
- The project also envisages construction of 50,000 tonne magnetised iron calorimeter detector (ICAL). It will study the properties of the neutrino, in particular the mass hierarchy among different types of neutrino.
What are neutrinos?
Proton, neutron, and electron are tiny particles that make up atoms. The neutrino is also a tiny elementary particle, but it is not part of the atom. Such particles are also found to exist in nature.
- Neutrino has a very tiny mass, no charge and spin half. It interacts very weakly with other matter particles. So weakly that every second trillions of neutrinos fall on us and pass through our bodies unnoticed.
- Neutrinos come from the sun (solar neutrinos) and other stars, cosmic rays that come from beyond the solar system, and from the Big Bang from which our Universe originated. They can also be produced in the lab.
- Neutrinos come in three types or “flavours” – electron neutrino, tau neutrino and muon neutrino.
- They can change from one flavor to another as they travel. This process is called neutrino oscillation and is an unusual quantum phenomenon.
- Neutrino oscillation was established by Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, Canada, and Super-Kamiokande experiment in Japan. They studied Solar neutrinos, atmospheric neutrinos and man-made neutrinos.
- The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) will study atmospheric neutrinos only. Solar neutrinos have much lower energy than the detector can detect.
How are atmospheric neutrinos produced in nature?
- Atmospheric neutrinos are produced from cosmic rays which consist of protons and heavy nuclei. These collide with atmospheric molecules such as Nitrogen to give off pions and muons which further decay to produce neutrinos.
Why does INO need the mountain?
- The mountain consists of 1km of solid rock that filters away most of the charged particles from the cosmic rays. The filtered set consist of a part of the incident cosmic ray protons and pions and practically all the neutrinos.
Why does the experiment have to be underground?
- If the detector was placed at the surface of the mountain, it would pick up billions of cosmic ray muons every hour and about 10 neutrino events per day. After placing inside the rock, it would detect only 300 muon events per hour and about 10 neutrino events per day of which 3 will be the desired muon neutrino events.
How will the Iron calorimeter detect the neutrinos?
- The ICAl consists of 150 layers of alternating iron slabs and glass detectors called Resistive plate chambers.
- The muon neutrino interacts with the iron to produce a muon which is electrically charged. This charge is picked up by sensors in the glass RPCs which set off an electrical pulse, to be measured by the electronics. By piecing together the pulses set off in successive glass plates, the path followed by the muon is tracked. This is used to infer the properties of the neutrino which caused the pulses.
Future applications of neutrino science:
- Neutrinos give us information about the interior of the sun. Studying these neutrinos can help us understand what goes on in the interior of the sun.
- If the properties of neutrinos are understood better, they can be used in astronomy to discover what the universe is made up of.
- Neutrinos interact very little with the matter around them, so they travel long distances uninterrupted. Since they take time to cross these distances, they are in effect uninterrupted for very long times. Thus, they can give us a clue about the origin of the universe and the early stages of the infant universe, soon after the Big Bang.
- There are technological applications of the detectors that will be used to study them. For instance, X-ray machines, PET scans, MRI scans, etc., all came out of research into particle detectors. Hence the INO detectors may have applications in medical imaging.
Surprising meteorite discovery points to early solar system chaos
A study of two meteorites which fell in Assam and Rajasthan over a span of 13 hours in 2017, by the Geological Survey of India (GSI), has concluded that they may contain “significant clues to the origins of life.
- Two meteorites fell in 2017, one on June 6 in Assam one in Mukundpura village in Rajasthan.
About the discovery:
- After studies, experts have found that the Mukundpura meteorite is a carbonaceous meteorite, one of the most primitive types. The meteorite belongs to a very rare and primitive group of meteorites called CM group of carbonaceous chondrites.
- The meteorite that fell in Natun Balijan in the flood plains of Lohit River, has been classified as an “ordinary chondrite.”
About carbonaceous chondrites:
- Carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, unlike other meteorites, contain very primitive traces of carbon. And carbon forms the backbone of all life on earth.
- They represent some of the most pristine matter known, and their chemical compositions match the chemistry of the Sun more closely than any other class of chondrites.
- They are formed in oxygen-rich regions of the early solar system so that most of the metal is not found in its free form but as silicates, oxides, or sulfides.
- Most of them contain water or minerals that have been altered in the presence of water, and some of them contain larger amounts of carbon as well as organic compounds. This is especially true for the carbonaceous chondrites that have been relatively unaltered by heating during their history.
Significance of this discovery:
- Meteorites mostly originate from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Carbonaceous meteorite may contain clues to the formation of early life. This is a rare type, since carbonaceous meteorites constitute only 3%-5% of all meteorite falls.
- Also, this meteorite could be carrying some of the most pristine primordial matter recovered from space as it is made up of materials which were formed during the early stages of the formation of the solar system.
- A detailed analysis could provide clues about the origin of life and the formation and evolution of the solar system.
Key Facts for Prelims
Bidya Devi Bhandari, Nepal’s 1st female president, wins second term
- Nepal’s first woman President Bidya Devi Bhandari was relected for second term in office.
- She was elected twice in parliamentary elections in 1994 and 1999.
- Earlier she had served as Defence Minister of the country and has been an active campaigner for women’s rights.
- In 2015, she was elected as the first female head of the state.
President of Nepal:
- President of Nepal is ceremonial head of state, under the new Republican Federal Constitution of Nepal.
- The electoral college for presidential election comprised of members of Parliament and Provincial Assemblies.