Polity & Governance
- Indian Government launches National CSR Data Portal & Corporate Data Portal
- President of India appoints Governor of Madhya Pradesh
- Election Commission recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs
Government Schemes & Policies
- Centre launches initiative to make 100 websites accessible to persons with disabilities
- Nanaji Deshmukh Krishi Sanjivani Yojna
- India: Financial Sector Assessment Program 2017-Detailed Assessment Reports (DARs)
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- 13th Raising Day celebrations of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)
Bilateral & International Relations
- India admitted to Australia Group
Defence & Security Issues
- MEITY launches Cyber Surakshit Bharat to strengthen Cybersecurity
- New DG of National Security Guard appointed
Science & Technology
- NASA’S mini nuclear reactor ‘Kilopower’ could power life on Mars
Key Facts for Prelims
- Atlas V launches with SBIRS GEO-4
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Polity & Governance
Indian Government launches National CSR Data Portal & Corporate Data Portal
The Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has launched National CSR Data Portal & Corporate Data Portal.
- The portals aim to provide easy accessibility to general public and also ensure high level of compliance.
- It will also help in institutionalising and consolidating the CSR activities.
- The initiative is a significant step towards driving accountability and transparency for corporate India.
About National CSR Data Portal:
- The portal will capture information on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities carried out by eligible companies, filed on MCA21 registry in their financial statements.
- It will contain all filed information that can help to generate pre-defined reports with respect to expenditure across states, districts and development sectors.
- It will also provide feedback on projects to be given by registered users.
- Moreover, the open access to data will help researchers and also improve quality of data filed by companies, as well as involve intended beneficiaries in giving valuable feedback to companies.
About Corporate Data Portal:
- The portal aims at making all financial and non-financial information of companies available in user-friendly format to general public.
- It will also have facility to generate pre-defined reports and also customised reports.
- The portal will enable greater transparency and creation of tools for stronger Corporate Governance.
Significance of National CSR Data Portal & Corporate Data Portal:
- These portals are expected to bring 100% transparency in corporate governance by making public over 4-crore filings of nearly 1.2 million companies.
- They will also promote corporate transparency and accountability to public at large.
- They are also expected to become platforms for learning and sharing of ideas and information.
- They will also facilitate social audit of CSR projects and bring together CSR contributors, implementers and beneficiaries and align CSR activities with national development goals.
President of India appoints Governor of Madhya Pradesh
President Ramnath Kovind has appointed former Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel as Governor of Madhya Pradesh.
About the Governors of States in India:
- Governor is the head of the Executive power of any state in India, just like the President who is the head of the executive power in the Union.
- But, Governor is the nominal head of a state, unlike the Chief Minister who is the real head of a state in India.
- According to an amendment in the Constitution of India, brought about in 1956, the same person can be the Governor of two or more states.
About the appointment of Governors in India:
- Article 157 and Article 158 of the Constitution of India specify eligibility requirements for the post of governor.
- The governors and lieutenant-governors are appointed by the president for a term of 5 years.
- The term of governor’s office is normally 5 years but it can be terminated earlier by: Dismissal by the president on the advice of the prime minister of the country, at whose pleasure the governor holds office or Resignation by the governor.
- There is no provision of impeachment, as it happens for the president.
Election Commission recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs
The Election Commission has recommended that 20 MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi be disqualified as they held offices of profit while being legislators.
- President Ram Nath Kovind will make the final decision based on the recommendation.
[IASToppers’ Exclusive Mains Article on this issue will be posted soon.]
Government Schemes & Policies
Centre launches initiative to make 100 websites accessible to persons with disabilities
Under Accessible India Campaign, 100 Accessible websites of various State Governments/UTs have been launched with an aim to empower Persons with Disabilities.
What are accessible websites?
- Accessible Websites are those websites into which Persons with Disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web.
About Website Accessibility Project:
- The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) initiated a “Website Accessibility Project” for State Government/Union Territories under Accessible India Campaign.
- The project is implemented through ERNET India, an autonomous scientific society under the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY).
- The project aims to make total 917 websites accessible and providing funds for the same. Now 100 accessible websites are made accessible under the project.
About Accessible India Campaign:
Accessible India Campaign (AIC) is the nationwide flagship campaign of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Aim and vision:
- The aim of the Campaign is to make a barrier free and conducive environment for Divyangjans all over the country.
- The campaign has the vision to build an inclusive society in which equal opportunities are provided for the growth and development of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) so that they can lead productive, safe and dignified lives.
Key facts related to the campaign:
- Accessible India Campaign is in line with the Article 9 of UNCRPD (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) to which India is a signatory since 2007.
- The scheme also comes under Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 provides for equal Opportunities and protection of rights and non-discrimination in Transport to Persons with Disabilities.
- Under the campaign, at least 50% of all the government buildings of National Capital and all the State capitals will be made fully accessible for persons with disabilities by July 2018.
- All the international airports in the country and railway stations of A1, A & B categories will be made fully accessible by July 2016.
- As per campaign drafted by Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, at least 10% of government owned public transport carriers in the country will be converted into fully accessible carriers for these persons by March 2018.
- It will also be ensured that at least 50% of all public documents issued by the Central Government and the State Governments meet accessibility standards for persons with disabilities by March 2018.
- A web portal and mobile application for creating a crowd sourcing platform to get information about inaccessible was also launched
- For creating universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities, the campaign has been divided into three verticals: Built Environment; Transport and Information & Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem.
Nanaji Deshmukh Krishi Sanjivani Yojna
Maharashtra Government has approved Nanaji Deshmukh Krishi Sanjivani Yojna, a Rs.4,000-crore project aimed at promoting climate-resilient agriculture.
- The scheme will be roll out in 2018-19 and continue till 2023-24.
- The scheme would cover small- and medium- scale farmers, who are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
- The total cost of the project is Rs 4,000 crore, 70 per cent of which will be borne by the World Bank while the state will contribute 30 per cent over six years
Key objectives of Nanaji Deshmukh Krishi Sanjivani Yojana:
The primary objective is to promote increase the agricultural yields even after the changes in climate. Moreover, the other objectives include:
- To improve Soil Quality
- Developing varieties of Food-Grains which can sustain variations.
- To adopt essential changes in the Crop Pattern as per the availability of water in such regions.
- To make Maharashtra absolutely drought free.
Under this scheme, state government will lay special emphasis on the cultivation of crops as per the availability of water.
- The Scheme has been named after social activist Nanaji Deshmukh who has worked in fields of education, health, and rural self-reliance, and has been honoured with Padma Vibhushan.
India: Financial Sector Assessment Program 2017-Detailed Assessment Reports (DARs)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have recently released the two main Reports of the 2017 India Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP).
- Last FSAP for India was conducted in 2011-12.
The reports include:
- The Financial System Stability Assessment (FSSA) and
- The Financial Sector Assessment (FSA)
In continuation, the IMF and the World Bank also released two Detailed Assessment Reports (DARs) relating to the 2017 India FSAP.
- The Report providing ‘Detailed Assessment of Observance—Basel Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision’ has been released by the IMF and the World Bank.
- The Report providing ‘Detailed Assessment of Observance of Clearing Corporation of India Limited (CCIL) Central Counter Party (CCP) and Trade Repository (TR)’, was released by the World Bank.
Highlights of the report:
The FSAP report among others acknowledges many efforts by Indian authorities like:
- Tackling Non-Performing Assets (NPAs),
- Recent recapitalization measures for banks and introduction of special resolution regime,
- Formalization of National Pension System (NPS) and making the pension sector regulator statutory,
- Passing of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and setting up of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI).
- Initiatives such as ‘no frills’ account (under Jan Dhan Yojana),
- Promoting digitization,
- Introduction of unique biometric identification number (AADHAR),
- Currency exchange initiative etc.
It also recognizes the improved inter-agency co-operation since the establishment of Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), supported by its Sub-Committee and four technical groups and progress in setting up of Financial Data Management Centre (FDMC).
About Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP):
- Established in 1999, the Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) is a comprehensive and in-depth assessment of a country’s financial sector.
- It is a joint program of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
What is it all about?
- FSAPs analyze the resilience of the financial sector, the quality of the regulatory and supervisory framework, and the capacity to manage and resolve financial crises.
- Based on its findings, FSAPs produce recommendations of a micro- and macro-prudential nature, tailored to country-specific circumstances.
The FSAP follows a three-pronged approach when looking at the country’s financial sector:
- The soundness of a financial system versus its vulnerabilities and risks that increase the likelihood or potential severity of financial sector crises.
- A country’s developmental needs in terms of infrastructure, institutions and markets.
- A country’s compliance with the observance of selected financial sector standards and codes.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
13th Raising Day celebrations of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) celebrated its 13th Raising Day on January 19th, 2018.
- On this occasion, an MoU was also signed in between NDRF and National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
- Besides, a co-operation with Facebook took place during the programme. The highlights of the cooperation with Facebook includes targeted geographical messaging, disaster information volunteers and community capacity building.
- The Disaster Management (DM) Act has made the statutory provisions for constitution of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for the purpose of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters.
- NDRF is a specialised force capable of responding to any type of disaster in the country and abroad. It is strategically deployed across the nation as per the vulnerability profile of the country.
Evolution of NDRF:
- Two national calamities in quick succession in the form of Orissa Super Cyclone (1999) and Gujarat Earthquake (2001) brought about the realization of the need of having a specialist response mechanism at National Level to effectively respond to disasters. This realization led to the enactment of the DM Act on 26 Dec 2005.
- The NDRF raised on January 19, 2006.
Role and mandate of NDRF:
- Specialized response during disasters
- Proactive deployment during impending disaster situations
- Acquire and continually upgrade its own training and skills
- Liaison, Reconnaissance, Rehearsals and Mock Drills
- Impart basic and operational level training to State Response Forces (Police, Civil Defence and Home Guards)
- Community Capacity Building Programme
- Public Awareness Campaign
What are the features which make NDRF a Unique Force?
- The only dedicated disaster response force of the world.
- The only agency with comprehensive response capabilities having multi-disciplinary and multi-skilled, high-tech, stand alone nature.
- Experienced paramilitary personnel specially trained and equipped for disaster response.
- Capabilities for undertaking disaster response, prevention, mitigation and capacity building.
Locations of NDRF BNs:
- These NDRF battalions are located at ten different locations in the country based on the vulnerability profile of country and to cut down the response time for their deployment at disaster site.
Bilateral & International Relations
India admitted to Australia Group
India was admitted as the 43rd member of the Australia Group, an informal bloc (group) of countries that keeps a tight control over exports of substances used in making of chemical weapons.
What is Australia Group?
- Australia Group is multilateral export control regime (MECR) and informal group.
- It works to counter spread of materials, equipment and technologies that could contribute to development or acquisition of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) by states or terrorist groups through harmonisation of export controls.
- It was established in 1985.
- Coordination among participant countries of Australia Group helps them to fulfil their obligations under Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention to the fullest extent possible.
Members of Australia Group:
- It has now 43 members. It is important to note that China, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea are not its members.
Significance of India’s membership:
- The inclusion will help to raise India’s stature in the field of non-proliferation, though it is not signatory to Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and help in acquiring critical technologies.
- India is first South Asian nation to become its full-time member of Australia Group.
- It is also expected to strengthen India’s bid to enter 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
- With its admission into Australia Group, India is now part of three of the four key export control groups in world dealing with non-proliferation.
- India’s entry into three of four export control regimes burnishes its credentials i.e. a reference to country’s position that it has scrupulously adhered to rules governing non-proliferation of sensitive technologies and equipment.
Apart from Australia Group, another two key export control groups of which India has memberships:
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR):
- India had joined MTCR in June 2016.
- Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries that regulates trade in sensitive equipment and technologies to ensure there is no proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying payloads above 500kg for more than 300km.
- India had joined Wassenaar Arrangement, which is also an informal grouping of 42 countries, exercising control over the export of dual-use goods and technologies in December 2017.
The fourth one of which India has not have membership:
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG):
- The only export control group that India is not a part of is the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
- NSG controls the export of sensitive nuclear technologies and equipment, with the aim of preventing nuclear weapons’ proliferation is only export control group.
- China has repeatedly blocking India’s entry in NSG. Significantly, China is not member of Wassenaar Arrangement, MTCR and Australia Group.
Defence & Security Issues
MEITY launches Cyber Surakshit Bharat to strengthen Cybersecurity
To strengthen cybersecurity ecosystem in India in line Government’s vision for a ‘Digital India’, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has launched Cyber Surakshit Bharat initiative.
- It was launched in association with National e-Governance Division (NeGD) and industry partners.
About Cyber Surakshit Bharat:
Cyber Surakshit Bharat is first public-private partnership of its kind and will leverage the expertise of the IT industry in cybersecurity.
- To spread awareness about cybercrime and building capacity for safety measures for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and frontline IT staff across all government departments.
How does it operate?
- It will be operated on three principles of awareness, education and enablement.
- It will include an awareness program on importance of cybersecurity.
- It will also include a series of workshops on the best practices and enablement of the officials with cybersecurity health tool kits to manage and mitigate cyber threats.
- It will conduct series of training programmes across country in the next six months.
- It will be attended by CISOs and technical officials from central government, state governments and UTs, PSBs, PSUs and defence forces, defence PSUs and technical arms of Air Force, Army and Navy.
- The founding partners include leading IT companies such as Microsoft, Intel, WIPRO, Redhat and Dimension Data.
- Its knowledge partners include Cert-In, NIC, NASSCOM and FIDO Alliance and premier consultancy firms Deloitte and EY.
New DG of National Security Guard appointed
Senion IPS officer Sudeep Lakhtakia has been appointed as the new Director General (DG) of the National Security Guard (NSG).
About the National Security Guard (NSG):
The National Security Guard (NSG) is an Indian special forces unit under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
- It was raised in 1984, following Operation Blue Star and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, “for combating terrorist activities with a view to protect states against internal disturbances”.
- NSG is under the authority of Ministry of Home Affairs (India), However it is not categorised under the uniform nomenclature of Central Armed Police Forces.
- It has a special forces mandate, and its core operational capability is provided by the Special Action Group (SAG)which is drawn from the Indian Army.
- The Special Rangers Group (SRG), the police component of NSG, which also handles VIP security, is composed of personnel on deputation from other Central Armed Police Forces and State Police Forces.
- The chief of the force designated as a Director General is an officer from the Indian Police Service.
- The NSG personnel are often referred to in the media as Black Cats because of the black dress and black cat insignia worn on their uniform.
Science & Technology
NASA’S mini nuclear reactor ‘Kilopower’ could power life on Mars
The Kilopower project, a joint venture between NASA and the Department of Energy, is set to be the first nuclear fission reactor to reach space.
- A prototype has completed non-nuclear tests and is now running with a real reactor core at a facility in Nevada.
What is Kilopower project?
The Kilopower project is a near-term technology effort to develop preliminary concepts and technologies that could be used for an affordable fission nuclear power system to enable long-duration stays on planetary surfaces.
- It is a program designed to create small nuclear power sources to fuel further space exploration.
Goal of the project:
- The principal goal of the project is to sufficiently develop and test nuclear power system technologies by 2018 so fission power can be a viable option for NASA decision makers to consider when making their informed selection of exploration surface systems.
Significance of the Kilopower project:
Fission power can provide abundant energy anywhere we want humans or robots to go. On Mars, the sun’s power varies widely throughout the seasons, and periodic dust storms can last for months. On the Moon, the cold lunar night lingers for 14 days.
- In these conditions, Kilopower opens up the full surface of Mars, including the northern latitudes where water may reside.
- On the Moon, Kilopower could be deployed to help search for resources in permanently shadowed craters.
- In these challenging environments, power generation from sunlight is difficult and fuel supply is limited. Kilopower is lightweight, reliable and efficient, which makes it just right for the job.
Advantages of the Kilopower project:
- The technology could power habitats and life-support systems, enable astronauts to mine resources, recharge rovers and run processing equipment to transform resources such as ice on the planet into oxygen, water and fuel.
- It could also potentially augment electrically powered spacecraft propulsion systems on missions to the outer planets.
Key Facts for Prelims
Atlas V launches with SBIRS GEO-4
- United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V has launched on her 75th flight, lofting the SBIRS GEO-4, a missile early warning satellite.
- SBIRS GEO-4 is the fourth geostationary satellite in the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), a constellation of satellites that use infrared sensors to detect and track missile launches.
- SBIRS is designed to provide the United States with advance warning of an enemy nuclear strike, while also allowing the country to monitor other missile and rocket launches around the world.
- As well as detecting missile launches, SBIRS is also used for intelligence-gathering, helping to identify and characterize events that result in the emission of infrared radiation and to improve general battlefield awareness.