Polity & Governance
- Government launches GeM 3.0 with more features
- India slips to 42nd place on EIU Democracy Index
Issues related to Health & Education
- Third phase of Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP)
- India, ADB sign $250 million loan for rural road projects in five states
- Railways to Set up a Coach Factory in Marathwada, Maharashtra
Art & Culture
- Tribal festival Sammakka Saaralamma Jathara commenced
- Blue Moon, Super Moon and Blood Moon
Science & Technology
- Indian Government testing LiFi Technology for very high speed internet
Key Facts for Prelims
- Floating island to come up on Neknampur Lake
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Polity & Governance
Government launches GeM 3.0 with more features
The Ministry of Commerce & Industry has launched third version of the Government e-Marketplace (GeM 3.0).
- The earlier version GeM 2.0 was launched as pilot project in August 2016.
About Government e-Marketplace (GeM) initiative:
- GeM is an Online Market platform to facilitate procurement of goods and services by various Ministries and agencies of the Government.
- It aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement of goods and services and eliminate corruption.
- It functions under Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D), Union Ministry of Commerce and Industries.
- GeM is a completely paperless, cashless and system driven e-market place that enables procurement of common use goods and services with minimal human interface.
- Presently more than 40000 products in about 150 categories and hiring of transport service are available on GeM POC portal.
Benefits of GeM:
- GeM to a great extent eliminates human interface in order placement, vendor registration and payment processing.
- It is open platform and does not offer no entry barriers to bonafide suppliers who wish to do business with the Government. For procurements of higher value, GeM has bidding facility.
- GeM allows direct purchase on it in a matter of minutes. The entire process in online, end to end integrated. It has online tools for assessing price reasonability.
- GeM platform is a completely secure. The antecedents of the suppliers are verified online and automatically through Aadhar, PAN databases. Besides, all the documents on GeM are e-signed at various stages by the buyers and sellers.
- GeM has filters which are Preferential Market Access (PMA) compliant for selecting goods which are manufactured by Small Scale Industries (SSI). Thus, it will enable Government buyers to easily procure Make in India and SSI goods.
- Transparency, efficiency under GeM initiative will result in a substantial reduction in prices of procuring goods, in comparison to the direct purchase rates and purchases by tender and rate contract.
About GeM 3.0
GeM 3.0 has powerful search engine and price comparison using third party sites – multisource and real time.
- It has performance based User Rating and online vendor assessment (optional).
- It has market based-bundling and bunching of products and services.
- It also has multi-Cart Functionality and offers more Services with bid and RA Facility.
- GeM 3.0 will offer standardised and enriched catalogue management, powerful search engine, real time price comparison, template-based Bid and RA creation, demand aggregation, e-EMD, e-PBG, user rating, advanced MIS and analytics and more.
Benefits of GeM 3.0
- Completely transparent transactions across all ranges
- Market Based generic requirements across all government agencies
- Open and dynamic market place with rating based on performance of user on website
- Generic standards established through universal service levels and cost comparison enabled
- Standardisation of specifications of both products and services enabling empirical price comparability.
India slips to 42nd place on EIU Democracy Index
India world’s largest democracy was ranked 42nd among 165 independent states on annual 2017 Global Democracy Index (GDI) released by UK-based company, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
About the Global Democracy Index (GDI):
- The index ranks 165 independent states and 2 territories on basis of 60 indicators grouped in five different categories viz. electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture.
- It categories countries into four broad categories viz. full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime based on their score on a scale from 0 to 10.
- It is released by EIU, a research and analysis division of UK- based media behemoth The Economist Group.
Highlights of the report:
Top 10 countries
- Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Finland and Switzerland. Top three positions on the list were occupied by Nordic countries.
- Chad, Syria and North Korea are on the bottom list. North Korea is ranked the lowest at 167th, while Syria is a notch better at 166th place.
- Among Asian continent, Indonesia was the worst-performing nation, falling to 68th position from 48th rank.
- Asia recorded the biggest decline compared to other regions of the world.
- Asia (5.63) lagged behind North America (8.56), Western Europe (8.38) and Latin America (6.26).
- Only top-19 countries have been classified as ‘full democracies’, while the hybrid regimes include Pakistan (110th), Bangladesh (92nd), Nepal (94th) and Bhutan (99th).
- Those named as ‘authoritarian regimes’ include China (139th), Myanmar (120th), Russia (135th) and Vietnam (140th).
- India’s overall score has fallen to 7.23 points, even as it scored well on electoral process and pluralism (9.17).
- It scored low on other four parameters—political culture, functioning of government, political participation and civil liberties.
- India was ranked 49th with regard to media freedom (measured this year by EIU), with its media being classified as ‘partly free’.
Reasons for India’s poor performance:
- The report has classified India as a flawed democracy and attributed the dip in India’s rankings to lack of freedom of speech and free media.
- The report notes that the rise of conservative religious ideologies has mainly affected India. The strengthening of right-wing Hindu forces in an otherwise secular country led to a rise of vigilantism and violence against minority communities, particularly Muslims, as well as other dissenting voices.
- In some states in India, the authorities there have restricted freedom of the press, closed down several newspapers and heavily controlled mobile internet services. Several journalists were murdered in India in 2017, as in the previous year.
- A Human Rights Watch report published on January 22 had also alleged that Indian failed to protect its minorities in 2017. This report should serve as a warning sign for the country.
- Urgent steps are needed to protect democratic values of the country, without which our fundamental credentials as a democracy will be seriously undermined.
Issues related to Health & Education
Third phase of Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP)
Post-graduates and doctorates from premier institutes are going to teach undergraduates in engineering colleges in backward regions of 11 districts as part of an HRD Ministry initiative.
- This is being done under the third phase of Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP).
- The initiative is aimed to improve quality of education and help secure NBA accreditation of the engineering programme.
- Under the initiative there will be focus on seven districts which have been called aspirational. They include Gaya and Muzaffarpur in Bihar, Kalahandi in Orissa and Dumka in Jharkhand.
- There are a lot of vacancies for teachers in engineering colleges in backward states and quality teachers are not willing to go there to teach. Therefore, this initiative aims to address the problem of dearth of well qualified faculty in the country.
About the Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP):
The Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) is an initiative of the National Project Implementation Unit (NPIU) which implements World Bank Assisted Projects in Technical Education.
- The initiative is aimed at improving the quality of engineering graduates.
- Under this project, all the Government engineering colleges are selected for direct intervention, and all private engineering colleges are selected for indirect intervention.
- The focus is on the most-backward states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, North-East, Rajasthan, MP etc.
TEQIP commenced in 2003 with World Bank assistance as a long term programme to be implemented in three phases.
- The first phase of TEQIP commenced in 2003 and ended on March 31st, 2009. It had covered 127 institutes across 13 States including 18 Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs).
- The second phase of TEQIP (TEQIP-II) commenced in August 2010. It had covered 23 States/Union Territories (UTs) and 191 Institutes (including 26 CFTIs).
The measures include:
- Institution based: accreditation of the courses through NBA, governance reforms, improving the processes, digital initiatives, securing autonomy for the colleges.
- Student based: improving the quality of teaching, teacher training, equipping the class rooms, revision of syllabus, industry interaction, compulsory internships for students, training the students in industry-relevant skills, preparing them for the GATE exam etc.
The major outcomes of TEQIP:
- Better academic standards, through filling up faculty positions, training faculty in better teaching methods, accreditation, improved research outputs in institution in Focus States/UTs.
- Better administration of the institutions with improved financial and academic autonomy.
- Better systems for assessment of higher transition rates and student learning.
- Expeditious and transparent release of funds to institutes by way of Direct Funds Transfer (DFT) System.
India, ADB sign $250 million loan for rural road projects in five states
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $250 million loan to finance the construction of 6,254 kilometres all-weather rural roads in the States of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal under the Prime Minister’s Rural Roads Program (PMGSY).
- The First Tranche Loan is part of the $500 million Second Rural Connectivity Investment Program for India approved by the ADB Board in December 2017.
- The program is aimed at improving rural connectivity, facilitating safer and more efficient access to livelihood and socio-economic opportunities for rural communities through improvements to about 12,000 kilometres Rural Roads across the 5 States.
- The investment program will support the Government’s drive for innovative approaches to reduce costs, conserve non-renewable natural resources, and promote the use of waste materials in rural road construction.
- Road maintenance will be ensured through the provision of a 5-year post-construction maintenance in each civil works contract.
- The investment program builds on the $800 million ADB-financed first Rural Connectivity Investment Program in 2012 that added about 9,000 kilometres of all-weather rural roads in the same States.
About the PMGSY:
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched in 2000 as a fully funded Centrally Sponsored Scheme to provide all weather road connectivity in rural areas of the country.
- The programme envisages connecting all habitations with a population of 500 persons and above in the plain areas and 250 persons and above in hill States, the tribal and the desert areas.
Aim of the PMGSY:
The aim was to provide roads to all villages
- With a population of 1000 persons and above by 2003
- With a population of 500 persons and above by 2007
- In hill states, tribal and desert area villages with a population of 500 persons and above by 2003
- In hill states, tribal and desert area villages with a population of 250 persons and above by 2007.
Railways to Set up a Coach Factory in Marathwada, Maharashtra
A massive rail coach factory will be set up in Latur, Maharashtra by Indian Railways.
- This plant would manufacture Electric Multiple Units for suburban trains and coaches for metros.
Significance of the project:
- Marathwada, the region where Latur lies, is amongst the most backward areas of Maharashtra. There have been few central government projects in this region. This will massively benefit ‘Make in India’, and bring employment to a large number of people.
- In addition, it will create an industrial ecosystem in the drought prone region boosting shift from agriculture to industry. It may be noted that the region suffers from heavy migration to other parts of the country.
Art & Culture
Tribal festival Sammakka Saaralamma Jathara commenced
The four-day ‘Sammakka – Saralamma Jatara’ at Medaram in Telangana has begun.
- Considered the biggest tribal festival across South Asia, the Jatara witnesses a huge number of devotees thronging the village to take the blessings of Goddess Sammaka-Saralamma.
About the Medaram’s Sammakka-Sarakka/Saralamma Jatara:
Sammakka-Sarakka Jatara held by forest dwelling Koya tribe of Telangana and surrounding States, is the biggest Tribal festival in Asia which is attended by one crore people on an average.
- The event is held bi-annually to honour the twin goddesses Sammakka and her daughter Sarakka.
- Several communities in Telangana society support Jatara as it is also a mythical narrative of two tribal women leaders who fought against the Kakatiya rulers who tried to annex their land and forests.
- According to the myth it was Sammakka’s curse which caused gradual decline and death of Kakatiya rule.
Location of Medaram:
- Medaram is a remote place in the Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of Dandakaranya, the largest surviving forest belt in the Deccan.
Blue Moon, Super Moon and Blood Moon
On January 31st, 2018, a rare event ‘Super Moon, Blue Moon and a total lunar eclipse’ was experienced over large parts of the globe.
What is 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).
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.
Why is it called a 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
Indian Government testing LiFi Technology for very high speed internet
In a recent pilot project, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology successfully tested a technology called LiFi (Light Fidelity).
- Education and Research Network (ERNET), an autonomous scientific society under the Ministry of electronics and IT, has successfully tested a new technology called LiFi (Light Fidelity) for high speed Internet.
- This technology can transmit data as high as 10 GB per second over a 1-km radius using LED bulbs and light spectrum.
- Indications are strong that it will be soon launched in India on a commercial basis.
- The idea is to connect difficult terrains of the country that can’t be reached by fiber but have access to electricity.
- The technology can be used to connect hospitals where regular internet signals interfere with certain equipment as well as to provide underwater connectivity.
- One of the biggest use-cases of LiFi could be in the upcoming smart cities in the country, whose underlying theme will be internet of things for modern city management and will be connected by LED bulbs.
- As the technology uses LED bulbs and light spectrums, it only requires electricity. So, it is easier to use LiFi in place of fiber in many difficult terrains of the country.
- This is not the first time when the Indian government has testing alternative technologies. They also tested WhiteSpace that uses unused spectrum between television channels to relay data. Google started testing the tech in India using Google’s Loon project that also required licensed mobile spectrum. So, the project was opposed by the telecom lobby.
What is Li-Fi?
- Li-Fi, or light fidelity, invented by German physicist and professor Harald Haas, is a wireless technology that makes use of visible lightin place of radio waves to transmit data at terabits per second speeds—more than 100 times the speed of Wi-Fi.
How it works?
- Li-Fi is a Visible Light Communications (VLC) system. This means that it accommodates a photo-detector to receive light signals and a signal processing element to convert the data into ‘stream-able’ content. Unlike Wi-Fi, which uses radio waves, Li-Fi runs on visible light.
- Here, data is fed into an LED light bulb (with signal processing technology), it then sends data (embedded in its beam) at rapid speeds to the photo-detector (photodiode).
- The tiny changes in the rapid dimming of LED bulbs are then converted by the ‘receiver’ into electrical signal.
- The signal is then converted back into a binary data stream that the user would recognise as web, video and audio applications that run on internet enables devices.
- An LED lightbulb is a semi-conductor light source meaning that the constant current of electricity supplied to an LED lightbulb can be dipped and dimmed, up and down at extremely high speeds, without being visible to the human eye.
- Li-Fi could make a huge impact on the internet of things too, with data transferred at much higher levels with even more devices able to connect to one another.
- Since it does not pollute, it can be called a green technology for device-to-device communication in the Internet of Things (IoT).
Difference between Li-Fi and Wi-Fi:
- Due to its shorter range, Li-Fi is more secure than Wi-Fi.
- Li-Fi systems consume less power.
- Li-Fi offers great promise to overcome the existing limitations of Wi-Fi by providing for data-heavy communication in short ranges.
Limitations of Li-Fi:
- As visual light can’t pass through opaque objects and needs line of sight for communication, its range will remain very restricted to start with. In order to enjoy full connectivity, more capable LED bulbs will need to be placed at various places.
- Li-Fi requires the lightbulb is on at all times to provide connectivity, meaning that the lights will need to be on during the day.
- Li-Fi is likely to face interference from external light sources, such as sunlight and bulbs, and obstructions in the path of transmission, and hence may cause interruptions in communication.
- Also, initially, there will be high installation costs of visual light communication systems as an add-on to lighting systems.
Key Facts for Prelims
Floating island to come up on Neknampur Lake
- On the eve of World Wetland Day on February 2nd, a floating island of 2,500 sq.ft with about 3,500 wetland plants will be introduced on the Neknampur Lake in Hyderabad.
- It will be introduced by Dhruvansh, a voluntary organisation working for protection of water bodies.
- The ‘island platform’ has been designed using styrofoam, bamboo, gunny bags, coir and so on and could bear the weight of four persons.
- Wetland plants planted are said to be a combination of mosquito repelling, water cleaning and biodiversity increasing plants.
- The floating island would be installed close to inlet and since the lake is total sewage water, different layers have been planned for cleaning.
- First layer is of floating aquatic weed which is already floating in the lake, second layer is of typhas and phragmites and then subsequent layers are to be introduced.