Polity & Governance
- “Not Just Bureaucrats”: Top Court On Appointments To Information Panel
Government Schemes & Policies
- The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2018
- Government liberalizes the e-Visa regime making it more tourist friendly
- IWAI launches portal for real-time information on available depth on stretches of National Waterways
- Global unemployment rate is lowest since 2008 financial crisis
- UAE’s Tabreed to build India’s first district cooling system in Amaravati
Art & Culture
- Ram Nath Kovind honours Manipuri dancer, sculptor with Tagore Awards
Science & Technology
- NASA declares end of Opportunity rover’s mission on Mars
- PM Modi flags off engine-less Vande Bharat Express
Key Facts for Prelims
- Swachhata Excellence awards 2019
- Pahari Dam modernization project
- Kartarpur Sahib Corridor
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Polity & Governance
“Not Just Bureaucrats”: Top Court On Appointments To Information Panel
Supreme Court has observed that the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions have been places of government employees and their retired counterparts.
What’s the issue?
- There’s “official bias” in favour of bureaucrats and government employees in the process of appointment.
- In fact, the selection committee, which shortlists candidates for appointment, is itself composed of government employees.
- This is against the fundamental principles of the Right to Information Act of 2005 which itself requires people from varied domains to man the Commissions.
- Besides, the entire RTI mechanism has been choked by rising pendency and growing number of vacancies of Information Commissioners.
- RTI law was enacted to ensure accountability in governance. The Commissions are meant to be the law’s eyes and hands to provide information to ordinary people.
- Therefore, the apex court has directed the government to look beyond bureaucrats and appoint professionals from “all walks of life,” including eminent persons with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism as Information Commissioners.
About the Central Information Commission:
Established in 2005, the Central Information Commission (CIC) is the authorised body under the Government of India.
- It was set up under the Right to Information Act.
- It was set up to act upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests to a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act.
- The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.
The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee consisting of:
- The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee.
- The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
- A Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
Government Schemes & Policies
The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2018
The Union Cabinet has approved the Amendment of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951.
The bill aims to address various deficiencies in the management of the National Memorial and to ensure that the Trust is an apolitical entity.
Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951:
- The act was provided for the erection of a National Memorial in memory of those killed or wounded on April 13, 1919 in Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.
- Moreover, The Bill provided a Trust to manage the National Memorial. The Trust as per the 1951 Act includes:
- The Prime Minister, as Chairperson
- The President of the Indian National Congress
- Minister-in-charge of Culture
- The Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha
- The Governor of Punjab
- The Chief Minister of Punjab
- Three eminent persons nominated by the central government
- The Bill removes the President of the Indian National Congress as a Trustee.
- Further, it clarifies that when there is no Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, then the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha will be the Trustee.
- The 1951 Act provides that the three eminent persons nominated by the central government will have a term of five years and will be eligible for re-nomination.
- It also adds provision to allow the central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of his term without assigning any reason.
Benefits of amendments:
- In the existing Act, there is a provision for representation of a single national political party. Deletion of the party specific member from the Trust will make it apolitical.
- The proposed amendment ensures representation of the Opposition Party in the Trust.
- The proposed Amendment will empower the Government to terminate and replace a Trustee to participate in functioning of the Trust or for any other reason.
Jallianwala Bagh massacre:
The 13th April, 1919 Amritsar massacre, known alternatively as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre after the Jallianwala Bagh (Garden) in Amritsar, was ordered by General Reginald Dyer.
What led to Jallianwala Bagh meeting?
- During World War I (1914–18) the British government of India enacted a series of repressive emergency powers that were intended to combat subversive activities.
- Bengal and Punjab remained sources of anticolonial activities. Revolutionary attacks in Bengal, associated increasingly with disturbances in in Punjab, were significant enough to nearly paralyse the regional administration.
- A pan-Indian mutiny in the British Indian Army was planned in February 1915. It was thwarted when British intelligence infiltrated the Ghadarite movement, arresting key figures.
- In the scenario of the British war effort and the threat from the militant movement in India, the Defence of India Act 1915 was passed limiting civil and political liberties.
- The crushing Ghadar conspiracy,the presence of Mahendra Pratap’s Kabul mission in Afghanistan, and a revolutionary movement especially in Punjab led to the appointment of a Sedition committee in 1918 chaired by Sidney Rowlatt.
- On the recommendations of the committee, the Rowlatt Act, an extension of the Defence of India Act 1915, was enforced in India to limit civil liberties.
- The passage of the Rowlatt Act in 1919 precipitated large scale political unrest throughout India.
- There were demonstrations held at the residence of Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar to demand the release of two popular leaders of the Indian Independence Movement- Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew.
- There were violent protests that resulted in the burning of the Town Hall and Railway station, disruption of telegraphs and communication system.
- It resulted in many deaths including a few deaths of the European government officials as well as civilians.
- Due to all these activities, the city of Amritsar witnessed a few days of silence while other parts of Punjab suffered.
- The British Government thus decided to place most of Punjab under Martial Law.
- On 12th April, a meeting at the Hindu College was held.
- At the meeting, Hans Raj, an aide to Saifuddin Kitchlew announced a public protest meeting would be held at the following day in the Jallianwala Bagh, to be organised by Muhammad Bashir and chaired by a senior Congress Party leader, Lal Kanhyalal Bhatia.
- On the afternoon of April 13, a crowd of at least 10,000 men, women, and children gathered in an open space known as the Jallianwalla Bagh, which was nearly completely enclosed by walls and had only one exit.
- This day marks the beginning of New Year for the Sikhs and is also celebrated as Baisakhi festival all over Punjab.
- Colonel Reginald Dyer had announced the implementation of a curfew throughout Amritsar and a ban on all processions that even prohibited a group of 4 or more people to meet publicly.
- Jallianwala Bagh was covered on all sides by walls reaching up to 10 feet. It is equipped with narrow entrances, most of which were locked.
- The place was flocked by the devotees, traders, farmers and merchants who visited Amritsar to enjoy the festival and witness the Baisakhi horse and cattle fair.
- Sensing the number of people present there and the secret meeting that was going to take place General Dyer arrived there with armed troops.
- Without warning, the troops opened fire on the crowd, reportedly shooting hundreds of rounds until they ran out of ammunition.
- It is not certain how many died in the bloodbath, but, according to one official report, an estimated 379 people were killed, and about 1,200 more were wounded.
Government liberalizes the e-Visa regime making it more tourist friendly
The e-Tourist Visa which was introduced in September 2014 with 46 countries has now been made applicable for 166 countries.
- The Ministry of Tourism has been working very closely with Ministry of Home Affairs for easing of the Visa Regime.
Important modifications: –
- Duration of stay in India of e-Tourist and e-Business Visas is maximum up to 1 Year with multiple entry subject to the stay stipulations.
- Also, the existing restriction of allowing foreigner for a maximum of three times has also been removed.
Changes in e-Tourist Visa:
- On e-Tourist Visa continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 90 days in case of nationals of all countries who are eligible for grant of e-visa except nationals of USA, UK, Canada and Japan.
- In case of nationals of USA, UK, Canada and Japan, continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days.
- In all cases no registration will be required.
Changes in e-Business Visa:
- Continuous stay during each visit shall not exceed 180 days in case of nationals of all countries who are eligible for grant of e-visa.
- No registration will be required if the stay is for a period of less than 180 days.
- e-Visa is valid for entry through 2 more designated Airports (Bhubaneswar and Port Blair) raising the total number of such airports to 28.
- Attending Destination wedding under normal e-Tourist visa or Tourist visa- No separate category of Destination Wedding Visa.
- Foreign nationals who fall sick during their stay in India can now avail medical treatment without converting their visa into Medical Visa. This would take care of sudden medical emergencies.
- Visa-On-Arrival facility extended to the nationals of Republic of Korea.
About Indian e-Visa:
- The India e-Visa is an electronic authorization to travel to India for business, tourism, or medical visits.
- When applying for an e-Visa, it is not necessary to submit passport or other personal documents to the consulate.
- The e-Visa will be processed electronically and sent to the traveller via email.
- When the traveller arrives in India, passengers need to have biometrics (fingerprints) taken at the airport, after which their passport will be stamped.
- Citizens of 161 countries are eligible to apply for the India e-Visa for India except Pakistan.
- The India e-Visa is only valid while flying into designated airports or seaports.
- Anyone entering India overland or at a different airport/seaport than those listed must have a traditional visa stamped inside the passport when they arrive.
Eligibility to get Indian e-Visa:
- Passport should have at least six months’ validity from the date of arrival in India.
- International Travellers should have return ticket or onward journey ticket, with sufficient money to spend during his/her stay in India.
- International Travellers having Pakistani Passport or Pakistani origin are not eligible for e-visa.
- Not available to Diplomatic/Official Passport Holders or Laissez-passer travel document holders.
- Not available to individuals endorsed on Parent’s/Spouse’s Passport i.e. each individual should have a separate passport.
- Not available to International Travel Document Holders.
IWAI launches portal for real-time information on available depth on stretches of National Waterways
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) launched a new portal LADIS – Least Available Depth Information System to ensure optimum use of National Waterways.
- The IWAI has designed the portal to facilitate the day to day operations of inland vessels operating on National Waterways as well as to avoid any hindrance during operation.
- Initially the information of LADs will be available for:
- National waterway 1 (Prayagraj-Haldia stretch of the Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly Rivers)
- National waterway 2 (Sadiya-Dhubri stretch of Brahmaputra River)
- National waterway 3 (Kollam-Kottappuram stretch of West Coast Canal and Champakara canal and Udyogmandal canal)
- Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route
- The facility will soon be expanded to other national waterways as well.
- The details of the LAD will be fed into the portal by respective surveyors and regional in-charge deputed with Inland Waterways Authority of India survey vessels.
- The LADIS portal is hosted on IWAI’s website and has been built in house by the IWAI.
- The vessel operators and cargo owners will prepare their sailing plans strictly as per applicable waterways related information (i.e.,Hydrographic survey reports, River Notices) available on IWAI’s website.
Significance of LADIS:
- LADIS will ensure that real-time data on least available depths is disseminated for ship/barge and cargo owners so that they can undertake transportation on National Waterways in a more planned way.
- If real time information is made available regarding LADs in stretches of various National waterways (NWs), it will help transporters by guiding them on the suitability of time of movement.
- It will enhance credibility and efficiency of information sharing to achieve seamless operations on National Waterways, besides pre-empting problems that may occur during movement of vessels.
Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI):
- The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) came into existence in October 1986 for development and regulation of inland waterways for shipping and navigation.
- The Authority primarily undertakes projects for development and maintenance of IWT infrastructure on national waterways through grant received from Ministry of Shipping.
- An Inland water transit and trade protocol exists between India and Bangladesh under which inland vessels of one country can transit through the specified routes of the other country. The existing protocol routes are:
- Kolkata-Karimganj – Kolkata
- For inter-country trade, four ports of call have been designated in each country namely; Haldia, Kolkata, Pandu and Karimganj in India and Narayanganj, Khulna, Mongla and Sirajganj in Bangladesh.
- Under the Protocol, 50:50 cargo sharing by Indian and Bangladeshi vessels is permitted both for transit and inter country trade.
Global unemployment rate is lowest since 2008 financial crisis
The International Labour Organisation has released the annual World Employment and Social Outlook Trends for the year 2019.
- The report also takes stock of progress with respect to targets for Sustainable Development Goal 8, which has been slower than anticipated.
Highlights of the report:
- Global unemployment levels fell one percentile to a steady 5 per cent in 2018, the lowest figures since the economic crisis that wreaked havoc on labour markets.
- A majority of the 3.3 billion people employed around the globe last year suffered a “lack of material well-being, economic security, equal opportunities or scope for human development.”
- A full 700 million people are living in extreme or moderate poverty despite having employment.
- A full 61 percent of all workers worldwide, or two billion people, are in so-called informal employment, with little to no social and contractual protections.
- Among other issues highlighted in the report was the lack of progress in closing the gender gap in labour force participation, especially in the Arab states, North Africa and southern Asia.
- ILO found that just 48 per cent of women are in the workforce, compared to 75 per cent of men, meaning that around three in five employed people last year were men.
About International Labour Organisation (ILO):
- The ILO is a United Nations agency dealing with labour issues, particularly international labour standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all.
- It was established in 1919 as an agency of the League of Nations and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
- India is a founder member of the ILO. At present, it has 187 members.
- The principal means of action in the ILO is the setting up of International standards in the form of Conventions, Recommendations and Protocol.
- So far India has ratified 45 Conventions, out of which 42 are in force. Out of these 4 are Core or Fundamental or Conventions.
- Sustainable Development Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
- ILO is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019.
UAE’s Tabreed to build India’s first district cooling system in Amaravati
A UAE-based international cooling provider has entered into a 30-year concession with Andhra Pradesh government to build, own, operate and transfer India’s first district cooling system in the state’s new capital Amaravati.
District cooling system:
- District cooling is the cooling equivalent of district heating. Working on broadly similar principles to district heating, district cooling delivers chilled water to buildings like offices and factories needing cooling.
- District cooling systems produce chilled water, steam or hot water at a central plant and then pipe that energy out (either underground or over rooftops) to buildings for air conditioning, space heating and water heating. As a result, these buildings don’t require their own chillers, air conditioners, boilers or furnaces.
- District cooling uses only 50 per cent of primary energy consumption for cooling urban building n compared to other cooling systems. This also reduces carbon emissions.
- In winter, the source for the cooling can often be sea water, so it is a cheaper resource than using electricity to run compressors for cooling.
- Especially in subtropical regions not only cooling, but dehumidifying of the air becomes important.
- Liquid desiccant cooling allows to generate remotely and efficiently a moisture absorbing liquid. This liquid can be pumped or transported long distances without energy loss.
Art & Culture
Ram Nath Kovind honours Manipuri dancer, sculptor with Tagore Awards
The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, presented the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 at a function held in New Delhi on February 18, 2019.
Winners of the Tagore Awards:
- Rabindranath Tagore.
- Winner of 2014: Shri Rajkumar Singhajit Singh is prolific writer and scholar of Manipuri dance.
- Winner of 2015: Chhayanaut is a cultural organization of Bangladesh
- Winner of 2016: Shri Ram Vanji Sutar is a renowned sculptor and scholar.
- Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony was instituted by the Government from 2012 during the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore.
- It is given for outstanding achievement in fostering harmony and values of cultural harmony especially in conflict situations through innovative systems.
- The first award was given to Pandit Ravi Shankar by the President of India Pranab Mukherjee
- It is given annually and carries an amount of One Crore, a citation in a Scroll, a Plaque as well as an exquisite traditional handicraft / handloom item.
- The Award may be divided between two persons / institutions who are considered by the Jury (headed by the Prime Minister of India) to be equally deserving of recognition in a given year.
- The awards are open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, language, cast, creed or gender.
Science & Technology
NASA declares end of Opportunity rover’s mission on Mars
NASA announced the end of its Opportunity rover’s mission after arrival of 15 years on Mars.
- The rover has not been responding from eight months since a planet-wide dust storm on the red planet in June last year.
- Though mission team members have tried to rouse the rover ever since, but failed to set up communication again, NASA decided to end this mission.
About the mission:
- Opportunity was a Mars rover mission of NASA of United States of America, launched on July 7, 2003, as part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover program.
- The Mars Exploration Rovers mission featured two identical, golf-cart-sized, solar-powered rovers: Spirit and Opportunity.
- Spirit landed at Gusev Crater on Jan. 4, 2004while Opportunity landed 20 days later on the opposite side of Mars at Meridiani Planum on Jan. 24, 2004 .
- NASA expected 90-day lifetimes for the rovers. Both Opportunity and Spirit far exceeded their expected lifetime.
- Spirit’s mission ended in May 2011 after travelling eight kilometres and Opportunity had logged 45 kilometres before losing contact in June 2018.
- Opportunity, also known as MER-B or MER-1 and nicknamed “Oppy”, is a robotic rover that was active on Mars from 2004 to late 2018.
- The rover far exceeded its planned 90-day mission lifetimes. It has travelled over 45 km on Mars and worked for nearly 15 years.
- First among the mission’s scientific goals was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils for clues to past water activity on Mars.
- On February 13, 2019, NASA officials declared that the Opportunity mission was complete.
PM Modi flags off engine-less Vande Bharat Express
Prime Minister of India flagged off the Vande Bharat Express, India’s first semi-high speed train, from New Delhi Railway Station.
Vande Bharat Express:
- Previously called Train 18, the Vande Bharat Express is India’s first indigenously built engineless semi-high speed train.
- It runs between Delhi and Varanasi at a maximum speed of 160 kmph.
- It has been built by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, in a record time of 20 months.
- The train is a 100% ‘Make in India’ project and is claimed to be built at half the cost of a similar train set that is imported.
- It is energy-efficient as its coaches will be fitted with LED lights. Coaches will have automatic doors and retractable footsteps.
- It will be inter-connected with fully sealed gangways along with a GPS-based Passenger Information System. It is provided with Bio toilets.
Key Facts for Prelims
Swachhata Excellence awards 2019
- The Raigarh Municipal Corporation of Chhattisgarh has won the “Swachhata Excellence awards 2019”.
- The Awards was given by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) as part of the Shehri Samriddhi Utsav.
- The municipal corporations of Ambikapur of Chhattisgarh and Kumbakonam of Tamil Nadu have bagged the second and third prizes respectively.
All of these are AMRUT cities.
About Shehri Samriddhi Utsav:
- The Shehri Samriddhi Utsav was organised by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) from 1st – 15th February 2019.
- A number of activities and events were organized at the City, State and National level as part of the initiative which aimed at extending the outreach of National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) to the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable by showcasing its initiatives and facilitating access of SHG members to the other government schemes.
Pahari Dam modernization project
- Recently, PM Modi inaugurated Pahari Dam modernization project in in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh.
- Pahari Dam is a water storage dam situated on Dhasan River in Jhansi district.
- The Dhasan River is a right bank tributary of the Betwa River. The river originates in Madhya Pradesh.
- The project will benefit farmers by reducing the water leakage from the dam and make more water available for the farmers.
Kartarpur Sahib Corridor
- Union Home Ministry has designated Dera Baba Nanak land post located in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district as an authorised immigration checkpoint to exit and enter for visiting Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan.
- The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is located on the banks of the Ravi River, about three-four km from the border in Pakistan.
- The Kartarpur Sahib Corridor connects Kartarpur Gurdwara in Pakistan with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district.