Polity & Governance
- Sanjay Kumar Mishra appointed ED chief
- Kambala season set to begin
Issues related to Health & Education
- New UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report
- NSE launches app, web platform for retail investors to buy G-secs
- UK’s perception of corruption in India has halved since 2015: UK India Business Council
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Make elephant corridors eco-sensitive zones, says NGT
Science & Technology
- Definition of kg changed after 130 years
Key Facts for Prelims
- Punjab becomes 3rd state to ban hookah bars or lounges
- CSE wins Indira Gandhi peace prize 2018
- Upgraded versions of Airsewa 2.0 web portal, mobile launched
- Jalaj Srivastava is IWAI chairman
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
Sanjay Kumar Mishra appointed ED chief
Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has appointed Senior IRS officer Sanjay Kumar Mishra as full-time Director of the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
- He will have tenure of two-years from the date of assumption of the charge of the post or until further orders, whichever is earlier.
- The post of ED director is additional secretary rank post in the Union government.
About Enforcement Directorate (ED):
Enforcement Directorate (ED) is a law enforcement agency and economic intelligence agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting economic crime in India.
- It is part of the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance.
- The origin of this Directorate goes back to 1 May 1956, when an ‘Enforcement Unit’ was formed, in Department of Economic Affairs, for handling Exchange Control Laws violations under Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947.
- In the year 1957, this Unit was renamed as ‘Enforcement Directorate’.
- It comprises officers of the Indian Revenue Service, Indian Police Service and the Indian Administrative Service.
- The prime objective of the Enforcement Directorate is the enforcement of two key Acts- the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 (PMLA).
- Other objectives are primarily linked to checking money laundering in India.
Kambala season set to begin
The coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi are all set for the kambala. The races would be held under the auspices of the District Kambala Committee.
- Karnataka government had promulgated Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 on July 20 last year.
- The President gave his assent to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill making Kambala a legal rural sport in Karnataka.
- The Bill seeks to exempt kambala and bullock-cart racing from the ambit of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
What is Kambala?
- Kambala is an annual Buffalo Race held traditionally under the auspices of local land lords and households or Patel of village, in coastal Karnataka, India.
- The Kambala season generally starts in November and lasts until March.
- The contest generally takes place between two pairs of buffaloes, each pair raced in wet rice fields, controlled by a whip-lashing farmer.
- The ‘track’ used for Kambala is a paddy field filled with slush and mud.
- The “Kambala Committee” is formed and it usually arranges Kambala in several categories.
- People place massive bets on the buffaloes to win and one can witness more than 20,000 spectators in a well-organised Kambala, egging on and cheering the buffaloes to complete the race.
- In traditional form of Kambala, racing is non-competitive, and buffalo pairs run one by one in paddy fields.
- A ritualistic approach is also there, as some agriculturists race their buffaloes for thanks giving (to god) for protecting their animals from diseases.
- The buffaloes developed for the race are carefully fed and some owners of the buffaloes have even built separate swimming pool for competing buffaloes.
What is the controversy over kambala?
- This age-old tradition of buffalo race is a cause of concern for animal lovers and animal activists.
- Animal rights activists are objecting to the traditional sport, claiming it tortures the buffaloes, whose anatomy is not made for racing.
Issues related to Health & Education
New UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report
According to the UNESCO’s 2019 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report, eighty per cent of migrant children across seven Indian cities did not have access to education near worksites even as 40% of children from seasonal migrant households are likely to end up working rather than being in school, facing exploitation and abuse.
Highlights of the report:
- In India, 10.7 million children aged 6 to 14 lived in rural households with a seasonal migrant in 2013. About 28% of youth aged 15 to 19 in these households were illiterate or had not completed primary school, compared to 18% of the cohort overall.
- Inter-State migration rates have doubled between 2001 and 2011. An estimated 9 million migrated between States annually from 2011 to 2016. The report also warns of the negative impact on education for children who are left behind as their parents migrate.
- The construction sector absorbs the majority of short-term migrants. A survey in Punjab state of 3,000 brick kiln workers in 2015-16 found that 60% were inter-State migrants. Between 65% and 80% of all children aged five to 14 living at the kilns worked there seven to nine hours per day. About 77% of kiln workers reported lack of access to early childhood or primary education for their children.
- The report shows there is only 1 urban planner for every 100,000 people in India, while there are 38 for every 100,000 in the United Kingdom. Registration and documentation requirements for migrants set up to reduce migratory flows make it harder to enter schools as well.
- The Right to Education Act in 2009 made it mandatory for local authorities to admit migrant children.
- National-level guidelines were issued, allowing for flexible admission of children, providing transport and volunteers to support with mobile education.
- The policies were attempted to create seasonal hostels and aiming to improve coordination between sending and receiving districts and states.
- Some State governments have also taken steps for migrant children’s education.
Recommendations made by the report:
- Protect the right to education for all children, no matter their identification or residency status.
- Indian states must look beyond trying to address education needs for children in their home communities and also address the challenges faced by children and youth who have already migrated.
- Better data is needed on the education needs of those in slums and informal settlements.
- Urban planning institutions need to be strengthened so as to generate more urban planners who can help India ensure sustainable urban development, with equitable education.
NSE launches app, web platform for retail investors to buy G-secs
The National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) announced the launch of its new mobile app and web-based platform — “NSE goBID” (Government Bond Investment Destination) for retail investors to buy government securities.
About the ‘NSE goBID’:
- “NSE goBID” and web-based platform for investing in government securities will be available to all investors registered with trading members of NSE.
- The app would allow investors to invest in treasury bills (T-Bills) of 91 days, 182 days and 364 days and various government bonds from one year to almost 40 years.
- The retail investors would be able to make payment directly from their bank accounts using Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Internet banking.
- While investment could be done almost every week after a one-time registration, the app would be available to all investors registered with NSE’s trading members.
Significance of the move:
- The launch assumes significance as government securities are one of the safer investment options available to retail investors as these are risk-free instruments which provide portfolio diversification and are available for longer investment durations.
What are Treasury bills?
- Treasury Bills are basically instruments for short term (maturities less than one year) borrowing by the Central Government. Treasury Bills were first issued in India in 1917.
- At present, the active T-Bills are 91-days T-Bills, 182-day T-Bills and 364-days T-Bills.
- The 91 day T-Bills are issued on weekly auction basis while 182 day T-Bill auction is held on Wednesday preceding Non-reporting Friday and 364 day T-Bill auction on Wednesday preceding the Reporting Friday.
- In 1997, the Government had also introduced the 14-day intermediate treasury bills.
- Auctions of T-Bills are conducted by RBI.
- T-Bills are issued on discount to face value, while the holder gets the face value on maturity. The return on T-Bills is the difference between the issue price and face value. Thus, return on T-Bills depends upon auctions. When the liquidity position in the economy is tight, returns are higher and vice versa.
Who can purchase T-Bills?
- Individuals, Firms, Trusts, Institutions and banks can purchase T-Bills. The commercial and cooperative banks use T-Bills for fulfilling their SLR requirements.
UK’s perception of corruption in India has halved since 2015: UK India Business Council
According to the latest edition of the U.K. India Business Council’s Ease of Doing Business report, the perception of UK businesses of corruption as a barrier to operate in India has halved since 2015 and 46 per cent of companies have plans to expand investment in India in the next 12 months.
Highlights of the report:
- As per the report, there has been a considerable year-on-year fall in the number of companies that viewed ‘corruption’ as a major barrier – from 34% in 2016 to 25% in 2017. It has halved since 2015, where it stood at 51%.
- This decline shows a major improvement, indicating that the current government’s efforts to mitigate corruption appear to be delivering tangible and much-desired results.
- Corruption is no longer considered a ‘top-three’ barrier compared to those not currently active in India.
- However, taxation issues and Price Points overtook ‘corruption’ as major barriers identified by 36% and 29% of respondents, respectively. The proportion of respondents identifying ‘taxation issues’ was 3% lower in 2018 than 2017.
- The key issue for those outside India is increasingly market demand for their products and services relative to government and bureaucracy-related barriers.
Factors responsible for this change:
- The report noted that initiative such as Aadhaar, electronic submission of government documents, acceptance of electronic signatures, and the push to file taxes online. This all have reduced face-to-face interactions where corruption is most likely to take place.
- The roll-out of GST was also cited as a contributor to the improved operating environment.
- The extent of digitalization, however, varies markedly across sectors, as does corruption, with those engaging in infrastructure projects still reporting significant issues relating to corruption.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Make elephant corridors eco-sensitive zones, says NGT
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to consider declaring all elephant corridors in the country as eco-sensitive zones.
- NGT has given two weeks time to the Ministry to look into the issue and to proceed in the matter for declaration of such areas as eco sensitive zones.
- The observations came while the green panel was hearing a plea that highlighted the increasing number of unnatural elephant deaths taking place in the state.
- The petition said, “Owing to the increased denudation and loss of their forest habitats, elephants have come increasingly into conflicts with humans and faced deliberate retaliatory killings and accidents at railway crossings, high tension power lines, power fences and trenches.”
What are Eco-sensitive zones?
- Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 (EPA) gives power to the Central Government i.e. the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to take all measures that it feels are necessary for protecting and improving the quality of the environment and to prevent and control environmental pollution.
- To meet this objective, the Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards.
- Besides the section 5 (1) of this act says that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations like the biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants for an area, environmentally compatible land use, and proximity to protected areas.
- The above two clauses have been effectively used by the government to declare Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFA). The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-sensitive Zones”.
Criteria for demarcating ESAs:
- The MoEF (Ministry of Environment & Forests) has approved a comprehensive set of guidelines laying down parameters and criteria for declaring ESAs. A committee constituted by MoEF put this together.
- The guidelines lay out the criteria based on which areas can be declared as ESAs. These include Species Based (Endemism, Rarity etc), Ecosystem Based (sacred groves, frontier forests etc) and Geomorphologic feature based (uninhabited islands, origins of rivers etc).
Science & Technology
Definition of kg changed after 130 years
The 26th meeting of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) was special and historic, as the members voted for the redefinition of 130-years-old “Le grand K – the SI unit of kg” in terms of the fundamental Planck’s constant (h).
- The new definitions will come into force on May 20, 2019.
Why kill off the kilogram?
- Currently, it is defined by the weight of a platinum-based ingot called “Le Grand K” which is locked away in a safe in Paris.
- Le Grand K has been at the forefront of the international system of measuring weights since 1889. Several close replicas were made and distributed around the globe. But the master kilogram and its copies were seen to change – ever so slightly – as they deteriorated.
- In a world where accurate measurement is now critical in many areas, such as in drug development, nanotechnology and precision engineering – those responsible for maintaining the international system had no option but to move beyond Le Grand K to a more robust definition.
How wrong is Le Grand K?
- The fluctuation is about 50 parts in a billion, less than the weight of a single eyelash. But although it is tiny, the change can have important consequences.
How does the new system work?
- The tool uses coils and magnets wherein the current in the coil exerts a known force and that current can be measured to sufficient accuracy.
- As the definition of current has already been established in terms of magnetic-field force, it can be used to derive an upward force from which the mass of an unknown object can be compared. When the forces are equal, the mass of the unknown object can be measured.
- The voltage and current measurements are based on Planck’s Constant.
- Electromagnets generate a force. Scrap-yards use them on cranes to lift and move large metal objects, such as old cars. The pull of the electromagnet, the force it exerts, is directly related to the amount of electrical current going through its coils. There is, therefore, a direct relationship between electricity and weight.
- So, in principle, scientists can define a kilogram, or any other weight, in terms of the amount of electricity needed to counteract the weight (gravitational force acting on a mass).
What is Planck’s constant?
- There is a quantity that relates weight to electrical current, called Planck’s constant – named after the German physicist Max Planck and denoted by the symbol h.
- But h is an incredibly small number and to measure it, the research scientist Dr Bryan Kibble built a super-accurate set of scales. The Kibble balance, as it has become known, has an electromagnet that pulls down on one side of the scales and a weight – say, a kilogram – on the other. The electrical current going through the electromagnet is increased until the two sides are perfectly balanced.
- By measuring the current running through the electromagnet to incredible precision, the researchers are able to calculate h to an accuracy of 0.000001%. This breakthrough has paved the way for Le Grand K to be deposed by “die kleine h”.
Implications of these changes:
- After the kilogram’s definition is changed officially- on 20th May, 2019, also known as World Metrology Day- most people will never notice the difference. It would not change baking ingredients on a kitchen scale, or even have an effect on the tons of goods shipped globally every day.
- The change in the definitions will result in uniform and worldwide accessible SI system for international trade, high- technology manufacturing, human health and safety, protection of the environment, global climate studies and the basic science underpinning these.
- The units are expected to be stable in the long term, internally self-consistent and practically realisable being based on the present theoretical description of nature at the highest level.
Advantages of the new system:
- The new system, now that it’s been adopted, will allow anyone with a Kibble balance to check their weights anytime and anywhere.
What is Kibble Balance?
- Kibble balance is a self-calibrating electromechanical balance and provides the measurements of mass, traceable in terms of electrical parameters and provides linkage of macroscopic mass to the Planck constant(h).
- The national labs of UK, US, Canada and Germany have successfully developed Kibble balance for 1 kg with an uncertainty of measurement in order of 10-8.
- The NPL-India, in association with the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India is looking forward for the development of 1 kg Kibble balance.
Advantages of Kibble Balance
- The main advantage of the tool would be that the national prototype of kilogram would not have to be sent to BIPM for calibrations.
- Further, the accuracy and stability of the Kibble balance would be very high, which is very important where low weights with high accuracies are essential, for example in pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies.
As Kibble balances already exist in national metrology labs, the kilogram can now be recreated across the planet.
About International prototype of kilogram (IPK):
- The International prototype of kilogram (IPK) is kept at the BIPM, Paris and serves as the international standard of kilogram.
- It is made of 90% platinum and 10% iridium and is a cylinder of 39 mm diameter and 39 mm height.
- Replicas of the IPK are made of the same material and used at BIPM as reference or working standards and national prototype of kilogram (NPK), kept at different National Metrology Institutes (NMIs).
- NPK-57, kept at CSIR- National Physical Laboratory, is sent periodically to BIPM for calibration.
- NPK further is being utilised through transfer standards of mass to provide unbroken chain of traceability for dissemination of mass through Legal Metrology to the user industries, calibration laboratories etc.
- The precise and accurate measurements help country in the production of international quality products and help commerce through elimination of the technical barrier to trade.
- The CGPM is the highest international body of the world for accurate and precise measurements.
- The CGPM comprises 60 countries including India and 42 Associate Members.
- The 26th meeting of the CGPM was held in November 2018 at Palais des Congrés, Versailles, France.
- The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the main executive body of CGPM has the responsibility of defining the International System of Units (SI).
- The revision of the SI is the culmination of many years of intensive scientific cooperation between the National Metrology Institutes (The National Physical Laboratory for India) and the BIPM.
- The dissemination of SI units for the welfare of society and industries in the country is the responsibility of Legal Metrology, Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India.
- Out of five draft resolutions, the revision of the International System of Units and the definition of timescales are important.
- The most important is the resolution on the revision of the International System of Units.
- The definition of the seven base units namely, second, metre, kilogram, ampere, Kelvin, mole and candela has been changed from being linked to artefacts to being based on the fundamental constants on nature.
Key Facts for Prelims
Punjab becomes 3rd state to ban hookah bars or lounges
- After Maharashtra and Gujarat, Punjab becomes country’s third state to ban hookah bars or lounges.
- The ban was announced through a law after President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018.
- The law is to check the use of tobacco in various forms and prevent diseases caused by the use of tobacco.
- It is important to note that smoking of hookah increases health risks, which includes exposure to toxic chemicals that are not filtered out by the water, and also the risk of infectious disease like tuberculosis resulting from sharing a hookah.
CSE wins Indira Gandhi peace prize 2018
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has won this year’s Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development, an award conferred by Indira Gandhi Trust each year on the late Prime Minister’s birth anniversary.
About Centre for Science and Environment (CSE):
- It is not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi.
- It was established in 1980 under the leadership of late Anil Aggarwal. Presently it is headed by Sunita Narain.
- It has been working for the last four decades to incorporate environmental sustainability into development policies.
- It works as think tank on environment-development issues in India, poor planning, climate shifts devastating Sundarbans and advocates for policy changes and better implementation of already existing policies.
- It has worked on extending awareness and education about environmental issues on air and water pollution, waste water management and industrial pollution, food safety and energy, climate change and above all in influencing official policy and public actions for sustainable development.
About the award:
- The award accorded annually by Indira Gandhi Trust since 1986.
- It is awarded to individuals or organizations in recognition of their creative efforts towards promoting international peace, development.
- It is also bestowed upon them for creating new international economic order and ensuring that scientific discoveries are used for the larger good of humanity and enlarging the scope of freedom.
- The award consists of monetary award of 25 lakh and a citation.
Upgraded versions of Airsewa 2.0 web portal, mobile launched
Union Civil Aviation Ministry launched the upgraded version of AirSewa 2.0 web portal and mobile app.
- The upgrade and improved version of AirSewa operates through an interactive web portal as well as through a mobile app for both android and iOS platforms.
Facilities provided under Upgraded AirSewa 2.0:
- Major improvements include features such as secure sign-up and log-in with social media, chatbot for travellers support, improved grievance management including social media grievances, real-time flight status and details flight schedule.
- It will offer passengers a convenient and hassle-free air travel experience.
- It will allow flyers to register their complaints through social media using hashtag (#) AirSewa.
- It will provide all required information about flights operating from various airports across country including real-time flight status and details of flight schedule.
- It will provide all facilities and services including assistance to disabled or unaccompanied minor that are available at airports across India.
- The web portal and application will help to capture air travellers’ feedback for policy interventions.
Jalaj Srivastava is IWAI chairman
- Union Government has appointed senior IAS officier Jalaj Srivastava as chairman of Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI).
About Inland Waterways Authority of India:
- 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 infrastructure in the inland waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also carrying out administration and regulation.