Polity & Governance
- The Union HRD Minister launches ‘Prashikshak’- a teacher education portal
- Suresh Prabhu launches NIVARAN portal for employees’ grievances redressal
- Three-year term is short for RBI Governor: Raghuram Rajan
- ‘Lodha panel did not bar politicians from BCCI’
- Gays, lesbians, bisexuals are not third gender: SC
- India gets $1 billion loan from World Bank for solar mission
Environment & Ecology
- Tiger safari project in Corbett red flagged
- Assam’s mini Kaziranga Orang loses its first rhino to poachers
- 109 Nobel laureates sign a letter slamming Greenpeace over GM crops
Defence & Security Issues
- MHA opposes visa-free entry
- MRSAM Successfully Test Fired
- INS Satpura Reaches Hawaii, USA for Exercise RIMPAC 2016
- Defence Minister dedicates Defence Communication Network to nation’s three armed forces
Polity & Governance
The Union HRD Minister launches ‘Prashikshak’- a teacher education portal
Human resource and development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani has launched ‘Prashikshak’, a teacher education portal for District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs).
- The portal has been developed by the HRD ministry in collaboration with the Central Square Foundation, a policy think tank focused on improving quality of school education.
- It is, a first of its kind in the country, an open online platform for collecting and reporting data from all DIETs which will help in the establishment of a strong monitoring mechanism.
- Prashikshak users will comprise pre-service teacher educators, DIET principals and faculty, policy makers at district, state government and national level, and the general public.
Significance of the portal:
- Prashikshak has been launched to help DIETs make informed decisions about their institutes and compare the performance of their institute against other DIETs by facilitating online reporting of data.
- It will also help aspiring teachers to make decision about which institute to join.
- The portal provides insightful analysis which will strengthen the teacher education scheme and allows states to spot areas where resources can be targeted.
- The portal will strengthen the teacher education system in four ways: It will equip government officials with data for decision making, support innovation in teachers’ education, empower aspiring teachers and increase transparency.
- District Institute for Education and Training (DIETs) were created in the early 1990s to strengthen elementary education and support the decentralization of education to the district level, under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme on Teacher Education (CSSTE).
- DIETs offer pre-service and in-service teacher training programmes for Government elementary school teachers.
- They also undertake studies in education, annual academic planning and reviews and function as resource centres for teaching learning and material development.
At present, there are 588 DIETs with an intake of 98,052 students and sanctioned faculty strength of 12,647.
Suresh Prabhu launches NIVARAN portal for employees’ grievances redressal
In a pro-workers move, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu launched NIVARAN portal, an online system for redressal of service related grievance of serving and former railway employees.
- This online system facilitates the employees to lodge their grievances and also monitor their progress.
- The Railways Ministry had already launched the Portal for the Public Grievance Redressal. It is an external Grievance Redressal Portal. This new initiative is a portal for the internal Grievance Redressal of Railway Employees & Former Railway Employees.
The move came at a time railways employees unions has threatened to go on strike against the pay hike announced by the government on recommendations of 7th pay commission and other demands.[Ref: PIB]
Three-year term is short for RBI Governor: Raghuram Rajan
RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, whose three-year term comes to an end in nine weeks, has pitched for a longer tenure for the RBI governor.
- He said that the global practice has to be emulated in India as well. He cited the case of U.S. Federal Reserve where, in addition to serving as members of the board, the chairman and vice-chairman serve terms of four years and may be reappointed to those roles who in turn serve until their terms as governors expire.
Structure of the RBI:
The general superintendence and direction of the RBI is entrusted with the 21-member Central Board of Directors:
- 4 Deputy Governors,
- 2 Finance Ministry representatives,
- 10 government-nominated directors to represent important elements from India’s economy, and
- 4 directors to represent local boards headquartered at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and New Delhi.
How is the RBI Governor appointed?
- The power to appoint RBI Governor is granted solely to the Central Government under the RBI Act. It is important to note that the RBI Governor is “appointed” not elected.
- The RBI governor is appointed for a three-year term, but after 1990, almost every governor got a two-year extension, except S Venkitaramanan who served a two-year term from 1990 to 1992. [Rajan’s three-year term ends on September 4 and he has decided not to seek a second term. This makes Rajan only the second RBI governor since 1990 to have a term shorter than five years.]
- The Governor can be removed from office any time by the Central Government i.e. he holds office at the pleasure of the Central Government.
‘Lodha panel did not bar politicians from BCCI’
The Supreme Court clarified to the BCCI that the apex court-appointed committee led by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha never recommended barring politicians from holding posts in the Board.
- According to the SC, the committee report only suggested a ban on government servants and ministers donning the role of cricket administrators.
- In January, when asked why the committee did not exclude the political class as a whole from cricket administration, Justice Lodha had reasoned that the political class involves people from all walks of life and “we cannot tar the entire citizenry with the same brush.”
Gays, lesbians, bisexuals are not third gender: SC
The Supreme Court has refused to modify its 2014 order on transgenders while clarifying that lesbians, gays and bisexuals are not third gender.
What’s the issue?
- In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court had in 2014 granted legal recognition to transgenders or eunuchs as third category of gender and had directed the Centre and all states to treat them as socially and educationally backward classes to extend reservation in admission in educational institutions and for public appointments.
- Paving way to bring transgenders in national mainstream, the apex court directed governments to take steps to remove problems faced by them such as fear, shame, social pressure, depression, and social stigma.
- It had also said that section 377 of IPC is being misused by police and other authorities against them and their social and economic condition is far from satisfactory.
- However, in September 2014, the Centre had filed an application in the apex court seeking clarification on the definition of transgender saying lesbian, gay and bisexual cannot be treated under the category of transgender.
- The Centre has still not implemented the 2014 judgment, which directs the government to treat transgender people or eunuchs as a socially and educationally backward class.
The Centre had also sought clarification on the grant of OBC status to transgenders saying all such people cannot be clubbed under OBC category as some of them are SC/ST by birth.
Important points of the 2014 verdict:
- The SC in its 2014 verdict had itself clarified that transgender does not include gay, lesbians, bisexuals.
- In its 2014 judgment, the SC had directed the Centre to treat transgender people or eunuchs as a socially and educationally backward class.
- The court had directed the government to provide them with incentives and benefits in education and jobs in order to help them gain dignity, ability to fight for their constitutional rights and get accepted into mainstream society.
- The grammatical meaning of ‘transgender’, therefore, is across or beyond gender. This has come to be known as umbrella term which includes gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and cross-dressers within its scope. However, while dealing with the present issue we are not concerned with this aforesaid wider meaning of the expression transgender.
- The judgment had clearly said that the benefit of “third gender” would be enjoyed by the transgender community comprising “hijras, eunuchs, Kothis, Aravanis, Jogappas, Shiv-Shakthis, etc.
According to the SC, the Constitution has fulfilled its duty of providing rights to transgenders. Now it is time for us to recognise this and to extend and interpret the Constitution in such a manner to ensure a dignified life of transgender people. All this can be achieved if the beginning is made with the recognition that TG as third gender.[Ref: Hindu]
India gets $1 billion loan from World Bank for solar mission
In a significant push for solar power, the World Bank signed an agreement with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to mobilize $1 trillion in investments by 2030.
- The World Bank will also lend more than $1 billion to support India’s ambitious initiatives to expand solar energy generation, including a $625 million grid-connected rooftop solar programme.
- This agreement establishes the World Bank group as a financial partner for the alliance.
- As part of the agreement, the (World) Bank Group will develop a roadmap to mobilize financing for development and deployment of affordable solar energy, and work with other multilateral development banks and financial institutions to develop financing instruments to support solar energy development.
- ISA was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in November last year by Modi and French President Francois Hollande.
- The alliance, headquartered in India, aims to bring together countries situated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn which receive abundant sunshine for around 300 days a year.
Environment & Ecology
Tiger safari project in Corbett red flagged
The National Tiger Conservation Authority has red flagged a proposed tiger safari project in Uttarakhand’s Corbett National Park.
- The NTCA also asked the State government to first comply with wildlife norms.
Reasons cited by NTCA and CZA:
- The NTCA and Central Zoo Authority (CZA), under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, feel that the proposed safari project may expose tigers to poaching.
- The CZA has cited NTCA’s recent decision to stop tiger safari project in Madhya Pradesh’s Pench National Park as it may have negative effect on the big cats including their likely poaching.
- The Uttarakhand Forest department had in August last year sought permission of the CZA to start a tiger safari inside the famous national park.
- The tiger population in the country was estimated at 1,706 in 2010. It rose to 2,226 in 2014.
- Uttarakhand ranks second — after Karnataka — in tiger population in the country.
About the Jim Corbett National Park:
- Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest national park in India and was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park to protect the endangered Bengal tiger.
- It is located in Nainital district of Uttarakhand and was named after Jim Corbett who played a key role in its establishment.
- The park encompasses the Patli Dun valley formed by the Ramganga river.
- The park was the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative.
- The park is surrounded by the dense moist deciduous forest mainly consists of sal, haldu, peepal, rohini and mango trees. Forest covers almost 73% of the park, 10% of the area consists of grasslands.
- Corbett National Park is one of the thirteen protected areas covered by the World Wide Fund For Nature under their Terai Arc Landscape Program. The program aims to protect three of the five terrestrial flagship species, the tiger, the Asian elephant and the great one-horned rhinoceros, by restoring corridors of forest to link 13 protected areas of Nepal and India, to enable wildlife migration.
The Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA) is an autonomous statutory body of the government of India responsible for oversight of zoos.
- The Central Zoo Authority has been constituted under the Wild Life (Protection) Act.
- The CZA was formed to bring Indian zoos up to international standards.
- Apart from the primary function of grant of recognition and release of financial assistance, the Central Zoo Authority also regulates the exchange of animals of endangered category (Listed under Schedule-I and II of the Wildlife Protection Act) among zoos.
- Exchange of animals between Indian and foreign zoos is also approved by the Authority before the requisite clearances under EXIM Policy and the CITES permits are issued by the competent authority.
- It is an affiliate member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).
- In 2005, The National Tiger Conservation Authority was established in following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force, constituted by the Prime Minister of India for reorganized management of Project Tiger and the Tiger Reserves of India.
- For this purpose, The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was amended (Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006) to provide for constituting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority responsible for implementation of the Project Tiger Plan to protect endangered tigers.
Assam’s mini Kaziranga Orang loses its first rhino to poachers
The Orang National Park, also known as mini Kaziranga, has lost its first rhino to poachers.
- The park recorded zero poaching last year after several poaching attempts were foiled by the officials.
About Orang national park:
Orang national park is located on the northern banks of Brahmaputra in Assam and the park has 100-odd rhinos in 79.28 sq km area.
- It is also known as the mini Kaziranga National Park (IUCN site) since the two parks have a similar landscape made up of marshes, streams and grasslands.
- The park has a rich flora and fauna, including great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, pigmy hog, elephants, wild buffalo and tigers. It is the only stronghold of rhinoceros on the north bank of the Brahmaputra river.
- Though known for rhinos, Orang is also a tiger habitat and has been declared tiger reserve covering an area of 492.46 sq km on February this year.
- The park forms contiguous landscape with Kaziranga, connected through numerous sand islands on Brahmaputra.
- Also Kaziranga’s tiger population is connected to Orang through sand islands system and forms a single largest landscape of big cat population in the state. This landscape also includes Loakhowa and Burachapori wildlife sanctuaries.
109 Nobel laureates sign a letter slamming Greenpeace over GM crops
As many as 109 Nobel laureates, mostly scientists, have signed a letter urging the Greenpeace to end its opposition to the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and calling upon governments around the world to reject the NGO’s campaigns that opposed biotechnological innovations in agriculture.
- According to the group of Nobel laureates, there has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption.
About the Greenpeace:
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
- Greenpeace states its goal is to “ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity”.
- It focuses its campaigning on worldwide issues such as climate change, deforestation, overfishing, commercial whaling, genetic engineering, and anti-nuclear issues.
Defence & Security Issues
MHA opposes visa-free entry
Ministry of Home Affairs has informed the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that they were against a proposal to allow “visa-free” entry to business visitors and tourists from eighteen key countries, including China.
- The PMO had, a few days ago, held an inter-ministerial meeting to review the Commerce Ministry’s ambitious proposal for `visa-free’ entry for business visitors and tourists from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) countries.
- Since November 2014, when the Immigration, Visa, Foreigners Registration & Tracking (IVFRT) system was put in place, around 9.75 lakh electronic tourist visas had been issued.
Views of the MHA:
- The ministry has pointed out that in any case there is negligible rate of visa rejections and pointed to expeditious visa processing that now takes 48 hours for 87 per cent of e-visa applicants and three days for 80 per cent of regular visa applicants. According to the MHA, the security situation in India is not conducive for this kind of a waiver.
- Given the low visa rejection rate, the extension of evisa facility to 150 countries that allows applicants to get electronic confirmation of their tourist visa within 48 hours and the compressed processing time for regular visa applications, there appears to be no justification for relaxing security considerations.
- At present, foreigners were granted tourist visa on arrival for 30 days, while a normal tourist visa can be obtained for 6 months.
- Under the IVFRT system, any foreigner applying for a regular visa has to go the Indian Embassy and record his biometrics. Some tourists from countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE have opposed this and the government is planning to extend the duration of their eTVs as an incentive.
MRSAM Successfully Test Fired
A new generation Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM), developed by India and Israel, was successfully test-fired twice from the Integrated Test Range off Odisha Coast.
- It was the MRSAM’s first test in India. This would be followed by several more tests in the coming days before its final induction into the IAF.
- The MRSAM is developed by the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the Indian Air Force.
- Many Indian industries have contributed to the development of a number of subsystems which have been put into use in this flight test.
- The MRSAM system provides reliable air defence at medium ranges. It is capable of intercepting incoming aerial threats up to a range of 70 km.
- MRSAMs could be deployed in sensitive air force stations, the national capital and also for protecting other sensitive installations such as nuclear plants.
- The MRSAM is the land version of LRSAM (long range surface to air missile) that DRDO and IAI are developing for the Navy.
INS Satpura Reaches Hawaii, USA for Exercise RIMPAC 2016
In pursuance of India’s Act East Policy and demonstration of India’s commitment to peace and prosperity of Indo-Pacific region, Indian Naval ship Satpura arrived at Hawaii to participate in the 25th edition of Exercise RIMPAC.
- Exercise RIMPAC is the largest multilateral naval exercise in the world and is held biennially in the Western Pacific Ocean.
- Indian Navy’s association with Exercise RIMPAC commenced with participation as an ‘Observer’ in 2006, 2010 and 2012.
- In 2014, Indian Naval participation was enhanced with deployment of Indian Naval ship Sahyadri in the 24th edition of the exercise.
Defence Minister dedicates Defence Communication Network to nation’s three armed forces
The Defence Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar dedicated the Defence Communication Network (DCN) to the nation.
- The DCN is a strategic, exclusive, secure and state-of-the-art communication network.
- The network provides converged voice, data and video services to the three Services based on secured system with adequate redundancy.
- The DCN is a major step towards ensuring Network Centricity across the three Services, Integrated Defence Staff and Strategic Forces Command.