Polity & Governance
- Law panel: Life term for government officials indulging in torture
Issues related to Health & Education
- Mobile App for Vidyarthi Vigyan Manthan launched
- President of India inaugurates Global Clubfoot Conference
- India continues to be worst affected by tuberculosis: WHO report
- India’s rank rises to 100 in World Bank’s doing Business Report, 2018
- Crypto currencies, Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) under SEBI lens
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Climate change taking a toll on global health: Lancet
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Italy to enhance counter-terror coop, sign six pacts
Defence & Security Issues
- IAF to participate in ‘Ex Blue Flag-17’
- Panel clears plan to buy 111 helicopters for Indian Navy
Science & Technology
- World’s first hybrid electric tram launched in China
Key Facts for Prelims
- Bad Rabbit ransomware
- 7th Asia Ministerial Energy Roundtable (AMER)
- North Korea nuclear test site accident
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Polity & Governance
Law panel: Life term for government officials indulging in torture
The Law Commission has recommended the Union government to consider ratifying the 1984 UN Convention against torture to tide over difficulties in extraditing criminals from foreign countries due to the absence of a law preventing harsh treatment by authorities.
- In July 2017, Union Government had asked Law Commission of India to examine issue of ratifying the convention after a writ petition was filed in court.
Important recommendations made by the Law Commission:
Draft ‘Prevention of torture bill, 2017
- The Law Commission recommended that a bill should be introduced in Parliament to amend various laws to prevent torture by government officials.
- The draft ‘Prevention of torture bill, 2017’ proposed “stringent punishment” to perpetrators to curb the menace of torture and to have a deterrent effect on acts of torture.
- It provides a wide definition to torture not confined to physical pain but also includes “inflicting injury, either intentionally or involuntarily, or even an attempt to cause such an injury, which will include physical, mental or psychological.”
- In case a person in police custody is found with injuries, it would be “presumed that those injuries have been inflicted by the police.” The burden of proof is on the police to explain the injury on the under-trial.
- The punishment could extend up to life imprisonment and include a fine.
- It suggested amendments to Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, and Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to accommodate provisions regarding compensation and burden of proof.
- It recommended an amendment to section 357B to incorporate payment of compensation in addition to payment of fine provided in Indian Penal Code.
- For compensation to victims, courts should decide upon justiciable compensation after taking into account various facets of individual case, such as nature, purpose, extent and manner of injury, including mental agony caused to the victim.
- The courts should also bear in mind socio-economic background of the victim and ensure that compensation will help victim bear expenses on medical treatment and rehabilitation.
Burden of proof:
- It held that state own responsibility for injuries caused by its agents on citizens and held that principle of sovereign immunity cannot override rights assured by Constitution.
- It calls for effective mechanism must be put in place to protect victims of torture, complainants and witnesses against possible threats, violence or ill treatment.
- New section 114B should be inserted in Indian Evidence Act to ensure that in case person in police custody sustains injuries, it is presumed that those injuries have been inflicted by police, and burden of proof shall lie on authority concerned to explain such injury.
About United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT):
- The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
- The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction, and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.
India and UN Convention against torture:
- India has signed the UN Convention against torture way back in 1997. But, it has still not ratified it. The Convention defines torture as a criminal offence.
- The centre contends some States were not in favour of such a law and the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code were more than sufficient.
Issues related to Health & Education
Mobile App for Vidyarthi Vigyan Manthan launched
In a bid to boost science and technology learning among students, the government will hold a nationwide science talent search examination through a newly launched Vidyarthi Vigyan Manthan (VVM) mobile application.
- The app will be used for Vidyarthi Vigyan Manthan (VVM) – a nationwide science talent search examination to be held on November 26.
- It would be the first test in the world to be conducted on an app with such larger volume.
About the Vidyarthi Vigyan Manthan (VVM):
- The VVM has been organized by eminent scientists and academicians associated with Vigyan Prasar (VP) – an autonomous organisation under Department of Science and Technology and National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) of Ministry of Human Resources and Development and Vijnana Bharati.
- It will provide a platform to the India’s generation next to imbibe the values of science and technology for a better future.
- A record number of over 91,000 students from 2078 centres across the country are expected to take the test on the same day.
- One of the unique features of this examination is that the test will be conducted online.
- Students will attend the exam through the various digital devices like, mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop in line with the vision of Digital India Campaign.
- Through VVM programme, India’s generation next will be made aware about the India’s Rich Contribution to Science from ancient period to modern times.
About Vijnana Bharati (VIBHA):
- VIBHA is one of the largest science movement in the country led by eminent scientists.
- It aims to inculcate and generate scientific temper, foster excellence in students and nurture and mentor them for their careers in pure sciences.
President of India inaugurates Global Clubfoot Conference
The President of India inaugurated the Global Clubfoot Conference being organised by the CURE India in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
What is Clubfoot?
- Clubfoot describes a range of foot abnormalities usually present at birth (congenital) in which baby’s foot is twisted out of shape or position.
- In clubfoot, the tissues connecting the muscles to the bone (tendons) are shorter than usual.
- Clubfoot is a fairly common birth defect and is usually an isolated problem for an otherwise healthy newborn.
- Clubfoot can be mild or severe.
- Although clubfoot is painless in a baby, treatment should begin immediately.
- Clubfoot can cause significant problems as the child grows. But with early treatment most children born with clubfoot are able to lead a normal life.
- Clubfoot affects the child’s mobility and confidence. Inevitably, education and schooling suffer – and the child cannot fulfil his or her potential.
- Ponseti method is initially used which involves moving foot into an improved position followed by casting, which is repeated at weekly intervals.
Clubfoot cases in India:
- This is a small number if one considers the 50,000 children who are born annually in India with clubfoot.
India continues to be worst affected by tuberculosis: WHO report
According to a Global TB Report 2017 released by World Health Organisation (WHO), India continues to have the highest number of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the world.
Highlights of the report:
- India has topped list of seven countries, accounting for 64% of the over 10 million new tuberculosis (TB) cases worldwide in year 2016. India was followed by Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa.
- India along with China and Russia accounted for almost half of around 5 lakh multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases registered in 2016.
- There were estimated 600000 new cases with resistance to rifampicin, the most effective first-line drug, of which 490000 had MDR- TB.
- Up to 27.9 lakh patients were estimated to be infected in the country in 2016. The infection burden in China, a more populous country, is one third of India at 8.95 lakh.
- The report highlighted that underreporting and underdiagnosis of TB cases continue to be a challenge, especially in countries with large unregulated private sectors and weak health systems, including India.
- Out of the 27.9 lakh estimated patients, only 1,938,158 TB cases were notified in the public and private sector in India, which means over 8.5 lakh cases were missing the treatment options.
- TB care and prevention investments in low- and middle-income countries fall almost $2.3 billion short of the $9.2 billion needed in 2017. In addition, at least an extra $ 1.2 billion per year is required to accelerate the development of new vaccines, diagnostics, and medicines.
- Shortfalls in TB funding are one of the main reasons why progress is not fast enough to be on track to reach the end TB targets.
- TB is also the main cause of deaths related to antimicrobial resistance and the leading killer of people with HIV.
- Progress in most countries is stalling and is not fast enough to reach global targets or close persistent gaps in TB care and prevention.
India’s budgetary allocation:
- India’s domestic budget for fighting tuberculosis showed a dramatic jump from about Rs. 700 crore in 2015 to Rs. 2,500 crore last year.
- Typically, most of India’s budget to combat the bacterial infection —that claimed 4.2 lakh last year—used to be dominated by international funding.
- Domestic resources accounted for 74% of the $525 million spent in India last year.
What is tuberculosis (TB)?
- Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria that are spread from person to person through the air.
- TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys, or the spine.
- In most cases, TB is treatable and curable; however, persons with TB can die if they do not get proper treatment.
What is multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB)?
- Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB) is caused by an organism that is resistant to at least isoniazid and rifampin, the two most potent TB drugs. These drugs are used to treat all persons with TB disease.
How does drug resistance happen?
- Resistance to anti-TB drugs can occur when these drugs are misused or mismanaged. Examples include when patients do not complete their full course of treatment; when health-care providers prescribe the wrong treatment, the wrong dose, or length of time for taking the drugs; when the supply of drugs is not always available; or when the drugs are of poor quality.
What is extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB)?
- Extensively drug resistant TB (XDR TB) is a rare type of MDR TB that is resistant to isoniazid and rifampin, plus any fluoroquinolone and at least one of three injectable second-line drugs (i.e., amikacin, kanamycin, or capreomycin).
- Because XDR TB is resistant to the most potent TB drugs, patients are left with treatment options that are much less effective.
- XDR TB is of special concern for persons with HIV infection or other conditions that can weaken the immune system. These persons are more likely to develop TB disease once they are infected, and also have a higher risk of death once they develop TB.
India’s rank rises to 100 in World Bank’s doing Business Report, 2018
In World Bank’s recently released Doing Business (DB) Report 2018 titled as ‘Doing Business 2018: Reforming to Create Jobs’, India ranks 100 among 190 countries.
About the index:
- The Ease of Doing Business Index assesses 190 economies and covers 10 indicators which span the lifecycle of a business.
- These 10 indicators are: Starting a business, Dealing with construction permits, Getting electricity, Registering property, Getting credit, Protecting minority investors, Paying taxes, Trading across borders, Enforcing contracts and Resolving insolvency.
- Each one of these indicators carry equal weightage.
- India has jumped over 30 ranks to attain 100th spot from 130th position in 2017 Ease of Doing Business Index.
- Its score also increased from 56.05 in 2017 to 60.76 in Doing Business 2018.
- India ranked 103rd in Resolving Insolvency indicator, 119th in Paying Taxes, 29th in Getting Credit, 164th in Enforcing Contracts, 4th in Protecting Minority Investors and 181st in Construction Permits.
- India is only country in South Asia and BRICS economies to feature among most improved economies of the DB Report this year.
- In South Asia region, India was top improver, but was ranked below Bhutan (75).
- Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were ranked below India.
- India figures among top 10 countries Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, Malawi, Kosovo, Uzbekistan, Zambia, Nigeria, Djibouti and El Salvador that have marked an improvement this year.
What factors are responsible for improvement?
- Historic jump in ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings is the outcome of the all-round & multi-sectoral reform push of Team India
- This significant improvement is credited to the mantra of “Reform, Perform, Transform”
- A strong leadership has provided the political will to carry out comprehensive and complex reforms, supported by a bureaucracy committed to perform.
- An extensive exercise is also undertaken to increase awareness among users about reforms to ensure extensive use of newly created systems.
Crypto currencies, Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) under SEBI lens
What is Initial Coin Offerings (ICO)?
- ICO is an unregulated means of crowd funding for project via use of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero, DASH, Litecoin, Z-cash etc.
- It is like an equity initial public offer (IPO) where right of ownership or royalties of project is offered to investors in form of digital coins in exchange for legal tender or other cryptocurrencies.
- ICO is mostly used to raise funds by start-up firms dealing in block chain technology and virtual currencies.
Is there any regulator for ICO?
- Unlike an IPO, which is governed by SEBI regulations, there is no regulator for this kind of crowd sourcing in India.
Banned by China:
- China’s Central Bank recently had banned ICO as dubbed it as an illegal public finance mechanism used for issue of securities and money laundering.
Why in news?
- The capital market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is planning to bring Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) under its existing legal framework.
- Crypto currencies like bitcoin, ethereum and such offerings have been under government radar for long time.
- Even discussions were held between various regulatory bodies, including SEBI and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to regulate crypto currencies.
- The RBI is of the view that these instruments are securities and so SEBI should be the regulating body. But these crypto-currencies are neither ‘commodities derivatives’ nor ‘securities’ under Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956.
What are cryptocurrencies?
- Crypto-currency is a digital currency that allows transacting parties to remain anonymous while confirming the transaction is valid.
- These digital payment systems are based on cryptographic proof of the chain of transactions, deriving their name, Crypto currency.
- These employ cryptographic algorithms and functions to ensure anonymity (privacy) of the users (who are identified by an alphanumeric public key), security of the transactions and integrity of the payment systems.
- “Decentralised Digital Currency” or “Virtual Currency” is also interchangeably used for a crypto currency.
- It is not owned or controlled by any institution – governments or private.
- There are multiple such currencies — Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple are some of the popular ones.
- Crypto-currency can be used for a lot of legal activities — such as booking tickets, buying coffee or fast food, depending of which retailers accept such currency.
- The valuation of the crypto currency Bit coin founded a year later would surge to 2300 USD a unit in less than a decade.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Climate change taking a toll on global health: Lancet
A new research published by The Lancet medical journal talks of the various ways in which climate change has started affecting the health of people across the planet.
Highlights of the report:
- China, Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia are the countries that have registered the highest number of deaths linked to air pollution.
- 46% global increase in weather related disasters since 2000.
- Anthropogenic climate change threatens to undermine the last 50 years of gains in public health.
- 87% of a random sample of global cities are in breach of WHO air pollution guidelines.
- The total value of economic losses resulting from climate-related extreme weather events was estimated at $129 billion in 2016.
- The average, there has been a 5.3% fall in productivity for rural labour globally since 2000, due to rising temperatures.
- More than 9,20,000 people globally out of the workforce, with 4,18,000 of them in India alone.
- More than 4,18,000 of Indian workforce out of jobs in 2016 due to rising temperatures.
- Over one billion people globally will be faced with a need to migrate within 90 years, due to a rise in sea level caused by ice shelf collapse.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Italy to enhance counter-terror coop, sign six pacts
India and Italy signed six Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) to boost cooperation in various important sectors including energy and trade and railways.
- The pacts were signed after detailed high-level talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. The talks mainly focused on ways to strengthen ties and countering terrorism.
- The visit is significant for both India and Italy, as the two nations will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations in 2018.
Signed MoUs include:
- Joint Declaration of Intent of Cooperation for Safety in the Railway sector
- MoU on 70 years of diplomatic relations between Indian Council of Cultural Relations and Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation of Italy
- MoU on cooperation in the field of Energy
- Executive Protocol on Cultural Cooperation
- MoU for promoting mutual investments between Italian Trade Agency and Invest India
- MoU between the Training Unit of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Government of Italy and Foreign Service Institute of the Ministry of External Affairs, India.
India-Italy bilateral relations:
- Italy is India’s fifth largest trading partner in the EU with a bilateral trade of USD 8.79 billion in 2016-17, as per official figures.
- India’s exports to Italy were at USD 4.90 billion, while its imports were at USD 3.89 billion, resulting in a trade imbalance of about USD 1 billion in favour of India.
Defence & Security Issues
IAF to participate in ‘Ex Blue Flag-17’
In order to strengthen military cooperation and develop the operational capability, Indian Air Force for the first time is set to participate in ‘EX BLUE FLAG-17’ exercise which is going to be conducted in Israel.
- A 45 member contingent of the Indian Air Force left for Israel for exercise ‘Blue Flag-17’.
- ‘EX BLUE FLAG-17’ is a bi-annual multilateral exercise which aims to strengthen military cooperation amongst participating nations.
- Indian Air Force is participating with the C-130J special operations aircraft along with Garud commandos.
Indo-Israel defence relations:
- India is Israel’s top destination for arms exports, buying 41% of export between 2012 and 2016.
- Israel is India’s third-largest source of arms, with a 7.2% share of imports between 2012 and 2016, next to the US (14 percent) and Russia (68 percent).
- And while in 2017 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel many more deals and MoUs got inked in the field of defence.
Panel clears plan to buy 111 helicopters for Indian Navy
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman accorded acceptance of necessity (AoN) for the procurement 111 naval utility helicopters (NUHs) at a cost of ₹21,738 crore for Indian Navy.
- Under the AoN, 16 helicopters would be procured at a fly away condition while 95 would be manufactured in India.
- The procurement of the helicopters would be the first major acquisition made under the strategic partnership model.
About Defence Acquisition Council (DAC):
To counter corruption and speed up decision- making in military procurement, the government of India in 2001 decided to set up an integrated DAC.
- It is headed by the Defence Minister.
- The DAC is responsible to give policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans.
- It also clears all acquisitions, which includes both imported and those produced indigenously or under a foreign license.
Objective of DAC:
- The objective of the Defence Acquisition Council is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.
Functions of the DAC include:
- In-principle approval of 15 Year Long-Term Integrated Perspective Plan for Defence Forces;
- accord of Acceptance of Necessity to acquisition proposals;
- categorization of the acquisition proposals relating to ‘Buy’, ‘Buy & Make’ and ‘Make’;
- issues relating to Single vendor clearance;
- decision regarding ‘offset’ provisions in respect of acquisition proposals above Rs. 300 crores;
- decisions regarding Transfer of Technology under ‘Buy & Make’ category of acquisition proposals; and
- Field Trial evaluation.
Science & Technology
World’s first hybrid electric tram launched in China
The world’s first hybrid electric tram powered by hydrogen fuel cells was recently launched in China.
- It marks a huge step in the application of green energy in public transport.
- The tram was put into commercial operation for the first time, recently, in Tangshan, north China’s Hebei Province.
- It is the world’s first hybrid electric tram with hydrogen as the main power source
- The research and manufacturing of the hybrid tram was done by Chinese locally
- The tram doesn’t emit any pollutants, it only emits water
- It does not produce any nitrogen oxides as the temperature of the reaction inside hydrogen fuel cells is controlled under 100 degrees Celsius
- The distance between carriage floor of the tram and the rail is only 35 centimeters thanks to the latest low-floor technology, which can remove station platforms and thus making boarding easy for passengers.
- The tram operates on a 136-year-old railway line in Tangshan City, one of China’s earliest industrial cities, and links several of its industrial heritage sites.
Key Facts for Prelims
Bad Rabbit ransomware
- A new ransomware campaign, dubbed Bad Rabbit, has hit a number of high profile targets in Russia and Eastern Europe.
- It is the ransomware first started infecting systems on Tuesday 24 October.
- It mainly affected Russia but also caused flight delays at Odessa airport in southern Ukraine and disrupted electronic payments in the Kiev metro.
7th Asia Ministerial Energy Roundtable (AMER)
- India will participate in the IEF 7thAsian Ministerial Energy Roundtable (AMER7) going to be held in Bangkok, Thailand.
- India is the current chair of International Energy Forum (IEF) which is promoting the AMER – a biennial event bringing together Energy Ministers and experts from Asian countries.
- India will host the 16th Ministerial Conference of the IEF in India schedule during April 2018.
North Korea nuclear test site accident
- As many as 200 North Korean labourers have been killed after a mine shaft being dug at the regime’s nuclear test site collapsed.
- North Korea claims the test beneath Mount Mantap was of a hydrogen bomb, with monitors suggesting the detonation was equivalent to an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 on the Richter Scale.
- Mount Mantap, the North Korean peak home to the country’s nuclear testing site, is believed to be in need of retirement after repeated blasts destabilised its geological foundations.