Polity & Governance
- UIDAI launches Updated QR code for offline Aadhaar verification
- Integration of e-SANAD portal and NAD – National Academic Depository
- Make BCCI a public body
- NCMEI can grant minority tag to education institutions: SC
- 7-star rating under Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban)
Government Schemes & Policies
- Government launches Study in India programme to attract foreign students
- DARPAN-PLI application launched
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- MoEFCC releases details of National Clean Air Programme
Bilateral & International Relations
- India wins elections to key United Nations subsidiary bodies
Defence & Security Issues
- Cybersecurity Tech Accord
Key Facts for Prelims
- April 19: World Liver Day
- What is Exchange Traded Fund (ETF)?
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Polity & Governance
UIDAI launches Updated QR code for offline Aadhaar verification
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has introduced updated ‘QR code’ for offline Aadhaar verification to strengthen its privacy measures during usage.
Aim of the move:
- The updated ‘QR code’ is aimed at adding an extra layer of privacy to Aadhaar after UIDAI introduced the concept of virtual identification.
What is QR code?
- QR code (Quick Response code) is two-dimensional (matrix) machine-readable bar code made up of black and white square. This code can be read by the camera of a smartphone.
- It is used for storing URLs or other information that link directly to text, emails websites phone numbers. It is capable of 360 degrees (omni-directional), high speed reading.
- QR Code can store up to 7089 digits as compared to conventional bar codes which can store max 20 digits. It encodes same amount of data in one-tenth the space of a traditional bar code. It carries information both horizontally and vertically.
- It has error correction capability and data stored in it can be restored even if it is partially damaged or dirty.
About the updated QR code:
- The updated ‘QR code’ will only reveal non-sensitive details such as name, address, photo, and date of birth. It can be used for offline user verification without disclosing 12-digit aadhar identification number.
- The new QR code comes with photo and can be used in offline mode to safeguard against any tampering of documents.
- Aadhaar card holders can download and print their biometric ID with QR code from UIDAI website or its mobile app. Users also can manually blacken aadhaar number and use printout with new QR code for establishing their identity, offline too.
Integration of e-SANAD portal and NAD – National Academic Depository
In a bid to make education system in India more transparent, the integration of e-SANAD portal and NAD – National Academic Depository has been launched by the Union HRD Ministry.
What is e-SANAD?
- e-Sanad is a project aimed at online submission/verification of documents with an ultimate object to extend contact less, cashless, faceless and paperless document attestation service for apostille and normal attestation to applicants in India (to be extended to Indians residing abroad as well in a phased manner).
- The project is being implemented by NIC in coordination with CBSE, States/UTs and the Ministry of External Affairs in a phased manner.
About National Academic Depository (NAD):
- National Academic Depository (NAD) is a 24X7 online store house of all academic awards viz.certificates, diplomas, degrees, mark-sheets etc. duly digitised and lodged by academic institutions / boards / eligibility assessment bodies.
- The UGC has signed a tripartite agreement with NSDL Database Management Limited (NDML) and CDSL Ventures Limited (CVL) for operationalising NAD.
- NAD not only ensures easy access to and retrieval of an academic award but also validates and guarantees its authenticity and safe storage.
- National Academic Depository comprises of two interoperable digital depositories viz. CDSL Ventures Limited (CVL) and NSDL Database Management Limited (NDML).
Make BCCI a public body
The Law Commission has suggested to the government that it turn the Board of Control of Cricket in India into a government-controlled body.
- The Commission has asked the government to classify BCCI as a national sports federation and bring it under the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI).
Recommendations of LCI:
- BCCI’s monopolistic activities, directly and indirectly, affect the fundamental rights of citizens, players, and other functionaries. Private citizen should be able to move highest court against BCCI for any violation of his fundamental rights.
- BCCI has been flying under radar of public scrutiny and encouraged environment of opacity and non-accountability. It has created impression in minds of general public that corruption and other forms of malpractices are adversely affecting one of most popular sports played in India.
- BCCI should be held accountable, under all circumstances, for any violations of basic human rights of stakeholders. BCCI exercises ‘state-like’ powers in the regulation of cricket, and thus, comes under the definition of ‘state’ under Article 12 of the Constitution.
- How can BCCI as an entity permitted as de facto by state to represent country at the international stage. BCCI virtually acts as National Sports Federation (NSF) and Sports Ministry website should explicitly mention BCCI in list of NSFs. This will automatically bring it within the purview of the RTI Act.
Definition of a public authority:
The RTI Act defines “public authorities” in Section 2(h): A “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self- government established or constituted:
- By or under the Constitution.
- By any other law made by Parliament.
- By any other law made by State Legislature.
- By notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any – Body owned, controlled or substantially financed and Non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
NCMEI can grant minority tag to education institutions: SC
The Supreme Court has ruled all questions relating to conferring minority status on educational institutions are to be decided by the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) and quashed the order of the Calcutta high court, which had said the body had no original jurisdiction on the issue.
- NCMEI has the power to decide any question that might arise, which relate directly or indirectly, with respect to the status of an institution as a minority educational institution.
- As per Section 11 of the Act, NCMEI could declare an establishment as a minority educational institution “at all stages.”
- Only the Commission has the power to decide on granting a ‘no objection’ certificate to an institution that wanted to convert into a minority institution.
- The Calcutta HC had held that NCMEI had no original jurisdiction to declare the minority status.
- Other high courts had also taken contradictory stand on the power of the Commission in granting minority status to educational institutions.
- Besides Calcutta HC, Bombay HC and Punjab & Haryana HC have also taken the view that the Commission had no original power to decide on minority status.
- On the other hand, the Allahabad HC had held that Commission had jurisdiction to decide the issue.
- The NCMEI Act empowers the Commission “to decide all questions relating to the status of an institution as a minority educational institution and to declare its status as such.”
Implications of this judgment:
- The Constitution grants a fundamental right to all minorities, whether based on religion or language, to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
- The wide power given to an independent forum like the NCMEI to declare an institution as a minority educational institution furthered the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 30.
About National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI):
- The NCMEI was set up in 2004. The Government brought out an Ordinance in November 2004 establishing the Commission. Later a Bill was introduced in the Parliament in December 2004 and both Houses passed the Bill.
- The Commission is mandated to look into specific complaints regarding deprivation or violation of rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
- The Commission is a quasi-judicial body and has been endowed with the powers of a Civil Court.
- It is to be headed by a Chairman who has been a Judge of the High Court and three members are to be nominated by Central Government.
Main roles of NCMEI:
The Commission has 3 roles namely adjudicatory function, advisory function and recommendatory powers.
- So far as affiliation of a minority educational institution to a university is concerned, the decision of the Commission would be final.
- The Commission has powers to advise the Central Government or any State Government on any question relating to the education of minorities that may be referred to it.
- The Commission can make recommendations to the Central Government and the State Governments regarding any matter which directly or indirectly deprives the minority community of their educational rights enshrined in Article 30.
7-star rating under Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban)
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the first workshop on star rating of garbage-free cities under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
- The star rating of garbage-free cities would create healthy competition among cities across the country.
About the star rating initiative:
- The star-rating initiative, developed by the Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban will be rating cities on a 7-star rating system based on multiple cleanliness indicators for solid waste management.
- These include Door to Door Collection, bulk generator compliance, source segregation, sweeping, scientific processing of waste, scientific land filling, plastic waste management, construction and demolition management, dump remediation & citizen grievance redressal system etc.
Vision of the initiative:
Vision statement of the star-rating protocol states that
- “All cities achieve “Garbage Free” status wherein at any point of time in the day,
- No garbage or litter is found in any public, commercial or residential locations (including storm drains and water bodies) in the city (except in litter bins or transfer stations)
- 100% of waste generated is scientifically managed;
- All legacy waste has been remediated and city is scientifically managing its municipal solid waste, plastic waste and construction & demolition waste.
- Additionally, there must be a steady reduction in the waste generated by the city and visible beautification of the city to achieve a clean & aesthetically pleasing city”.
- Cities can be rated as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 star based on their compliance with the protocol conditions specified for each of the rating.
- Further city should be ODF (Open Defecation Free) before it could be given rating of 3 star or above.
- While cities may self-declare themselves as 1-star, 2-star or 4-star, MoHUA will carry out an additional verification through an independent third party to certify cities as 3-star, 5-star or 7-star.
- Cities will need to get recertified themselves every year to retain their star-status.
Significance of the star rating initiative:
- The most significant feature of the rating protocol is that it provides stakeholders with a single metric to rate a city’s cleanliness, rather than separately evaluating multiple factors which contribute to a city’s overall cleanliness and garbage free status.
- The distinctive feature of Star Rating System will be that many cities can have higher stars as compared to only one city can be “Cleanest city” under Swachh Survekshan.
- The Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) focuses on two key objectives- eradication of open defecation and 100 per cent scientific solid waste management across all 4,041 statutory towns and cities.
Government Schemes & Policies
Government launches Study in India programme to attract foreign students
With an aim to provide students across the world an opportunity to study in Indian educational institutions, the Union HRD Ministry has launched “Study in India” programme.
About the “Study in India” programme:
- The “Study in India’ is an innovative initiative to attract students from countries in South Asia, South-East Asia, Middle East and Africa to come and experience the very best of academic learning from the top institutions in India.
- Under the programme, meritorious students would also be provided with fee waiver and scholarship.
- The Institute concerned will bear the expenditure on the fee waiver based on cross-subsidisation or through its existing funding.
- One of the objectives for the programme is to improve global ranking for Indian educational institutes.
- This will be achieved through systematic brand-building, identifying quality institutions for receiving the students, creating suitable infrastructure and facilitation structures.
Significance of the programme:
- The programme will not only encourage more foreign students to choose India as a destination for higher education but will also double India’s market share of global education exports from less than 1% to 2%.
- The move is also aimed to improve global ranking of Indian educational institutes.
- The government, at present, permits provision of 10% to 15% supernumerary seats for foreign students in higher education. This provision remains largely underutilised across universities and colleges.
- Currently, India is home to about 45,000 international students, which accounts for just 1% of global student mobility. It was one the reason for Indian institutes lower global rankings.
- By launching Study in India programme, government hopes to attract 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh international students by 2022.
DARPAN-PLI application launched
The Union Ministry of Communications has launched DARPAN-PLI application for seamless collection of premium for Postal Life Insurance (PLI) and Rural Postal Life Insurance (RPLI) policies.
- The app launched under DARPAN Project will help in collection of premium of these two policies at branch post offices anywhere in India, with online updation of the policies.
What is DARPAN Project?
DARPAN is Information Technology (IT) modernisation project aimed at realising financial inclusion of un-banked rural population. It offers core banking services to the account holders.
Aims and objectives of DARPAN Project:
- The project intends to provide low power technology solution to each branch postmaster (BPM). This will enable each of approximately 1.29 lakhs branch post offices (BOs) to improve service delivery.
- It aims to increase rural reach of Department of Posts (DoP) and enable BOs to increase traffic of all financial remittances, savings accounts, Rural Postal Life Insurance and Cash Certificates.
- It also aims to improve mail operations processes by allowing for automated booking and delivery of accountable article.
Significance of the project:
The Project shall
- Increase the rural reach of the Department of Posts and enable BOs to increase traffic of all financial remittances, savings accounts, Rural Postal Life Insurance, and Cash Certificates;
- Improve mail operations processes by allowing for automated booking and delivery of accountable article;
- Increase revenue using retail post business;
- Provide third party applications; and
- Make disbursements for social security schemes such as MGNREGS.
- So far, 43,171 Branch Post Offices have migrated under the “DARPAN”project with the aim of financial inclusion to rural population and it is targeted to complete the project by March, 2018.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
MoEFCC releases details of National Clean Air Programme
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released draft of National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) proposing multiple strategies to reduce air pollution.
- It aims to tackle increasing air pollution problem across country in comprehensive manner.
- The goal of NCAP is to meet prescribed annual average ambient air quality standards at all locations in country in a stipulated time frame.
- However, it does not mention of any specific target and time frame. Under NCAP, the MoEFCC plans to take host of measures to bring down air pollution.
Objectives of the NCAP:
- Augment and evolve effective and proficient ambient air quality monitoring network across country to ensure comprehensive and reliable database.
- To have efficient data dissemination and public outreach mechanism for timely measures for prevention and mitigation of air pollution.
- To have feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
Under the NCAP, the ministry plans to take a host of measures to bring down air pollution.
- These include augmenting the air quality monitoring network, identification of alternative technology for real-time monitoring, setting up of 10 city super network, indoor air pollution monitoring and management and air pollution health impact studies.
- Other measures include air quality forecasting system, issuance of notification on dust management, a three-tier mechanism for review, assessment and inspection for implementation and a national emission inventory.Comment
- Earlier Union Minister Harsh Vardhan had said that MoEFCC hopes to bring down air pollution in around 100 non-attainment cities by 35% in three years and 50% in five years.
- Non-attainment cities are those considered to have air quality worse than National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). However, NCAP released by MoECC has no reference to the target it internally conceived and publicly announced.
Bilateral & International Relations
India wins elections to key United Nations subsidiary bodies
India has won six elections to United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) bodies, five of them unanimously.
- In these polls, India won places on executive boards of four UN bodies, three commissions and committee.
- India faced an election within the Asia-Pacific group only for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Committee.
- India polled highest number of votes, receiving 46 votes, followed by Pakistan with 43, China received 39.
- The NGO committee of UN is considered influential because it scrutinises NGOs applying for consultative status with UNECOSOC and can recommend or block them. India will serve four-year term on panel starting January 2019.
- India won elections to Executive Boards of UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
- India will serve three-year terms from January 2019 on those executive boards.
Executive Board of UN-Women
- India was also elected separately on this executive board for three-year term starting January 2019. UN-Women work for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
- India was elected on UN Commission on Population and Development and it will have term till September 2021.
- India was also elected on the UN Commission for Social Development and shall have four-year term starting immediately.
- It was also elected UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and will serve three-year term starting January 2019.
UN Commission on Population and Development:
- It assists UNECOSOC by arranging for studies and advising it on population issues and trends, integrating population and development strategies and population and related development policies and programmes.
Commission for Social Development:
- Its purpose is advice UNECOSOC on social policies of general character and in particular on all matters in social field not covered by specialised inter-governmental agencies.
Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice:
- It acts as principal policymaking body of UN in field of crime prevention and criminal justice.
- Its mandate includes improving international action to combat national and transnational crime and efficiency and fairness of criminal justice administration systems.
- The Economic and Social Council is UN’s central platform for reflection, debate, and innovative thinking on sustainable development.’
- It is one of six main UN organs which were established by UN Charter.
- EcoSoc is principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues as well as for implementation of internationally agreed development goals.
- It supervises subsidiary and expert bodies in the economic, social and environmental fields.
Defence & Security Issues
Cybersecurity Tech Accord
Dozens of major technology companies including Microsoft, Facebook, Cisco, and SAP have signed onto a pledge, known as Cybersecurity Tech Accord, to protect their users around the globe against cybersecurity threats and to abstain from helping any government launch a cyber attack.
- This is hailed as a “watershed agreement” among companies representing every layer of internet communication.
Key features of Accord:
- Under this accord, signatory companies aim to take collective action to establish formal and informal partnerships with industry, civil society and security researchers, to improve collaboration for disclosure of vulnerabilities and other threats. The goal is to minimize potential for introduction of malicious code.
- The four principles of Cybersecurity Tech Accord aimed at advancing online security and resiliency across globe.
- Signatory companies agreed to mount stronger defence against cyberattacks, regardless of motivation underlying them. They pledged not to help governments launch cyberattacks against innocent citizens or enterprises.
- They will protect their products and services from any tampering or exploitation that could enable their use in cyberattacks.
- They will empower developers, as well as people who use technology products to improve their capacity to defend against cyberattacks.It includes joint work on developing stronger security practices.
Four principles of Cybersecurity Tech Accord:
- Protect users and customers everywhere
- Oppose cyberattacks on innocent citizens and enterprises
- Empower users, customers and developers to strengthen cybersecurity
- Partner with each other and like-minded groups to enhance cybersecurity
Key Facts for Prelims
April 19: World Liver Day
- The World Liver Day (WLD) is observed every year on April 19 to build awareness and understanding importance of liver in human body and how liver ailments can be treated.
- The 2018 theme for WLD is ‘Riding New Waves in Liver Diagnosis, Staging & Treatment’.
- As per World Health Organisation (WHO), liver diseases are 10th most common cause of death in India.
UK-India Tech Alliance
- The NASSCOM (National Association of Software & Services Companies) and TechUK launched new UK-India Tech Alliance.
- The leading technology trade bodies of India and UK inked memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK.
- The alliance is aimed at increasing collaboration on skills and new technologies, assisting policy development and encouraging innovation and lay groundwork for roadmap which will be jointly presented in June 2018.
What is Exchange Traded Fund (ETF)?
- ETF is index funds that offer security of fund and liquidity of stock listed and traded on exchanges. Much like index funds they mirror index, commodity, bonds or basket of assets.
- The ETFs trading value is based on the net asset value of the underlying stocks that it represents. Their price changes daily as they are traded throughout the day.
- They are similar to mutual funds in certain manner but are more liquid as they can be sold quickly on stock exchanges like shares.
- ETF route is considered as safer mode of disinvestment as it shields investors against stock market volatility.