Polity & Governance
- BharatNet deadline pushed to March 2019
- Cabinet nod for IWAI bond issue
- Private members’ Bill on mob violence
- Ministry, NITI Aayog moot privatisation of select services in district hospitals
Bilateral & International Relations
- IRDAI’s admission as a signatory to International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS)
- 200th anniversary celebrations of the Paika Rebellion
Key Facts for Prelims
- World’s first Laser Weapons System
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Polity & Governance
BharatNet deadline pushed to March 2019
The Union Cabinet has approved the second phase of the BharatNet project that forms the backbone for the government’s Digital India initiative.
- It also more than doubled the project’s budget and pushed back the deadline to March 2019.
- The Centre is still working on completing the first phase of the BharatNet project for which the deadline was March 2017. It had been able to lay optical fibre in nearly one-lakh GPs, however, only about 22,000 GPs have been provided Internet connectivity due to equipment procurement issues.
- The second phase aims at covering the remaining 1.50 lakh GPS.
What is BharatNet?
BharatNet is Centre’s rural internet connectivity programme which is implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL).
- It is world’s largest rural broadband connectivity programme using Optical fibre.
- Bharat Net seeks to connect all of India’s households, particularly the rural areas, through demand, affordable broadband connectivity of 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps to realise the vision of Digital India.
- The project is being funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
- The three-phase implementation under the BharatNet project is:
- Under the first phase, one lakh gram panchayats would be provided connectivity by laying underground optic fibre cable (OFC) lines by March 2017.
- Under the second phase, connectivity will be provided to all 2,50,500 gram panchayats in the country. It is to be completed by December 2018 (now extended to March 2019).
- Under the third phase from 2018 to 2023, state-of-the-art, future-proof network, including fiber between districts and blocks would be created.
About the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF):
- USOF was formed by the Central Government to help fund projects to boost connectivity in rural areas.
- The money for this fund comes through a ‘Universal Access Levy,’ charged from the telecom operators as a percentage of various licenses fees being paid by them.
Cabinet nod for IWAI bond issue
The Union Cabinet has given its nod to Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) for raising ₹660 crore in bonds for extra budgetary resources in 2017-18.
- The proceeds from the bonds will be utilised by IWAI for development and maintenance of National Waterways (NWs) under National Waterways Act, 2016.
- Funds received through issue of bonds will be used exclusively for capital expenditure to improve infrastructure funding.
- The National Waterways Act, 2016, which came into force in April 2016, merges 5 existing Acts which have declared the 5 National Waterways and proposes 106 additional National Waterways.
- Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory body in charge of the waterways in India.
- Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP.
- Its main function is to build the necessary required infrastructure in these waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also administration and regulation.
Private members’ Bill on mob violence
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi has given notice to introduce in the Lok Sabha a private member’s bill on mob violence.
- He has given notice to introduce the Mob Violence (Prevention and Punishment) Bill, 2017.
Key features of the bill:
- As per the bill, mob violence includes any act in which two or more persons injure, harm, oppress or threaten a person on the basis of his identity or prevent his enjoyment of a Constitutional right.
- The Bill criminalises mob violence as well as acts of omission by public servants.
- The Bill proposes special courts for trying cases of mob violence, with judges appointed by a collegium of five senior-most High Court judges. These courts will receive complaints of mob violence, set up special investigation teams and appoint public prosecutors. The SIT and public prosecutor will also be under Supreme Court supervision.
- Punishment up to life imprisonment, special compensation and witness protection are built into the Bill.
- It proposes to award penalties to public servants when such cases are not properly investigated, either due to malafide intentions or wilful neglect.
- It proposes to award a minimum 10 years’ imprisonment to public servants for “acts of omission”.
What is the Private members’ Bill?
Members of parliament other than ministers are called private members and bills presented by them are known as private member’s bills.
- The last Private Member’s Bill passed by parliament was the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Bill, 1968, which became an act on August 9, 1970.
- The last Lok Sabha saw 300 such bills introduced and barely four percent of them were discussed while 96 percent lapsed without even a single debate in the house.
Ministry, NITI Aayog moot privatisation of select services in district hospitals
As a part of a radical ‘privatisation project’, the Health Ministry and the NITI Aayog have developed a framework to let private hospitals run select services within district hospitals, on a 30-year lease.
- The framework was prepared in consultation with the World Bank.
About the proposed framework:
- As per the framework, the government will be allowing “a single private partner or a single consortium of private partners” to bid for space in district level hospitals, “especially in tier 2 & 3 cities.”
- Under this Public Private Partnership (PPP), care for only three non-communicable diseases — cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, and cancer care — will be provided.
- As per the draft model contract, private hospitals will bid for 30-year leases over portions of district hospital buildings to set up 50- or 100-bed hospitals in smaller towns across the country. The State governments could lease up to five or six district hospitals within the State.
- Further, the State governments will give Viability Gap Funding (VGF), or one-time seed money, to private players to set up infrastructure within district hospitals. The private parties and State health departments will share ambulance services, blood banks, and mortuary services.
Concerns related to policy:
- A major concern about the policy is that under ‘principles’ of the financial structure, the document states that “there will be no reserved beds or no quota of beds for free services” in these facilities.
- The policy document has also come under sharp criticism for the Ministry’s failure to consult with key stakeholders from civil society and academia.
- Another particularly disturbing suggestion is that only Below Poverty Line (BPL) patients and those in insurance schemes will be able to access free care. This would effectively exclude hundreds of millions of the Indian population from vital hospital services.
Bilateral & International Relations
IRDAI’s admission as a signatory to International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS)
The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI)’s admission as a signatory to International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS), Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MMoU).
- The International Association of Insurance Supervisors is a global framework for cooperation and information exchange between insurance supervisors.
- IAIS MMoU is a statement of its signatories’ intent to cooperate in the Field of information exchange as well as procedure for handling information requests.
About the IAIS MMoU:
- MMoU provides a formal basis for cooperation and information exchange between the Signatory Authorities regarding the supervision of insurance companies where cross-border aspects arise.
- The scope of the IAIS MMoU is wider than the existing agreements as this agreement also provides for supervision of other regulated entities such as insurance intermediaries under Anti Money Laundering, (AML) and Combating the Finance of Terrorism (CFT).
- With increasing integration of financial market and growing number of internationally active insurance companies there is an increased need for mutual cooperation and information exchange between insurance industry supervisors.
About the IRDAI:
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is an autonomous, statutory agency tasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and re-insurance industries in India.
- It was constituted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999, an act of Parliament passed by the government of India.
- The agency’s headquarters are in Hyderabad, Telangana, where it moved from Delhi in 2001.
- IRDAI is a 10-member body including the chairman, five full-time and four part-time members appointed by the government of India.
- In India insurance was mentioned in the writings of Manu (Manusmrithi), Yagnavalkya (Dharmasastra) and Kautilya (Arthashastra), which examined the pooling of resources for redistribution after fire, floods, epidemics and famine.
200th anniversary celebrations of the Paika Rebellion
Why in news?
The President of India Shri Pranab Mukharjee recently inaugurated the “Bicentenary (200th anniversary) celebration of the heroic Paika Rebellion of Odisha.
- The celebration was organised by the Ministry of Culture.
Who were Paikas?
- Paiks were the traditional landed militia of Odisha, used to perform policing functions.
- They owned rent-free land that was given to them for their military service to Kingdom of Khurda.
- However, they were rendered landless by the policies of British East India Company.
About Paika Rebellion:
- Paika Rebellion of 1817 is an armed rebellion against British colonialism.
- The revolution was in response to the tinkering of the revenue system by the British in 1803. In response, the farming community of Odisha rose in rebellion.
- At that juncture, Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar, the military chief of the King of Khurda, led the army of Paikas and forced the British to retreat. This came to be known as Paika Bidroh (Paika rebellion).
- The main cause of the revolution was the takeover of the rent-free land that had been given to the Paiks for their military service to the Kingdom of Khurda.
- Though the revolution occurred before the first war of independence in 1857, the revolution did not get similar recognition like that of the Revolt of 1857.
Key Facts for Prelims
World’s first Laser Weapons System
- United States Navy successfully tested the world’s first-ever active Laser Weapons System (LaWS).
- The LaWS is currently deployed aboard the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport ship, in the Persian Gulf. USS Ponce is first ship in the world to be deployed with such advanced weapons system.
- LaWS operates within an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
- It is absolutely silent and incredibly effective.
- It strikes are extremely accurate, silent and invisible.
- The system has special materials that release photons at the speed of light.
- It silently hits the target, burning it to a temperature of thousands of degrees.
- It can even target a single component of an enemy target and disable or destroy it as necessary.
- Each strike of the system travels 50,000 times the speed of an incoming ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile).
- It is a very versatile weapon that can be used against a variety of targets in air or surface targets or ground-based targets. Its precise nature can also limit collateral damage in wartime.