Polity & Governance
- VIVID- 2019
Issues related to Health & Education
- HRD Minister Launches Operation Digital Board
- Govt widens tax net, expands the ambit of startup definition
- DPIIT launches second edition of States’ ranking on Startup initiatives
- Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Corridor of RRTS
Bilateral & International Relations
- Trump Signs Directive to Create a Military Space Force
- Trump declares “national emergency” to get his wall
Science & Technology
- New Universe map unearths 3,00,000 more galaxies
Key Facts for Prelims
- Mahatma Gandhi Scholarships
- Sikaria Mega Food Park
- 14th Agricultural Science Congress
- What is the Island Development Agency (IDA)?
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Polity & Governance
VIVID-Vision Insight and Voices as India goes Digital”- the District Informatics Officer (DIO) meet, is being organised by National Informatics Centre (NIC).
- The meet is held as an initiative to interact with the DIO’s and to share their experiences as well as contribution, as digital change-makers at the grass-root level in the States.
- VIVID started in 2017, as an annual event, with the objective to empower NIC officials in the field of technology.
- The National meet will cover a wide range of relevant topics in various technical sessions including Emerging Technologies (Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning & Big Data Analytics), Cyber Threats & Counter Measures (Changing Digitisation Paradigm & its impact on Security), Enterprise Level Applications, and many other relevant topics.
National Informatics Centre (NIC):
- Established in 1976, the NIC is premier science & technology organisation of Government in informatics services and information and communication technology (ICT) applications.
- It is a part of MeitY’s Department of Electronics & Information Technology.
- It plays a pivotal role in steering e-governance applications in governmental departments at national, state and district levels, thus enabling improvement and wider transparency in government services.
- Almost all Indian-government websites are developed and managed by NIC.
Issues related to Health & Education
HRD Minister Launches Operation Digital Board
The Ministry of Human Resource Development launched ‘Operation Digital Board’ to leverage technology in order to boost quality education.
About the ‘Operation Digital Board’:
- The digital board will be introduced all over the country in government and government aided schools from class 9th onwards as well as in higher education institutions.
- The Operation Digital Board (ODB) will be implemented in the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
- ODB aims at converting a class room into a digital class room
- Availability of e-resources at any time and at any place to students
- Operation Digital Board will make the learning as well as the teaching process interactive and popularize flipped learning as a pedagogical approach.
- It will also help in provisioning of personalised adaptive learning as well as Intelligent Tutoring by exploiting emerging technologies like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence & Data Analytics.
Challenges in education industry:
- The biggest challenge in the education sector is maintaining acceptable quality standards.
- A large number of higher education institutions and schools needs improvements in quality teaching-learning, as the students coming out of these institutions find themselves unsuitable for the requirements of the society and market.
Initiatives taken by government to improve education sector:
- E -Pathshala: A joint initiative of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), and National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) provides access to digital textbooks for all classes, graded learning materials and enables participation in exhibitions, contests, festivals, workshops, etc.
- DIKSHA – National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers: It will help teachers to create training content, profile, in-class resources, assessment aids, news and announcement and connect with teacher community.
- National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER): It hosts large number educational resources in many subjects and in different Indian languages for primary, secondary and higher secondary.
- National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL): Initiated by seven Indian Institutes of Technology along with IISc, the main goal of NPTEL was to create the engineering and core science courses.
- e-PGPathshala: It is a one portal under which curriculum-based interactive content in different subjects across all disciplines of social sciences, arts, fine arts & humanities, natural & mathematical sciences, linguistics and languages is being developed.
- SWAYAM-Prabha DTH Channels: It is a group of 32 DTH channels devoted to telecasting of high-quality educational programmes on 24X7 basis.
What is Flipped classroom?
- A flipped classroom is type of blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom.
- In this, students are introduced to content at home and practice working through it at school.
- Students watch pre-recorded videos at home, then come to school to do the homework armed with questions and at least some background knowledge.
Advantages of Flipped classroom:
- The concept behind the flipped classroom is rethink when students have access to the resources they need most.
- This doubles student access to teachers–once with the videos at home, and again in the classroom, increasing the opportunity for personalization and more precise guiding of learning.
- A side benefit is that teachers can record lectures that emphasize critical ideas, power standards, and even the pace of a given curriculum map.
- It also has the benefit of allowing students to pause, rewind, search terms etc. as well as creating a ready-made library for student review.
Criticisms of The Flipped Classroom:
- Reduced opportunity for self-directed critical thinking
- Decentring the role of the student
- Encouraging a lecture-driven march through curriculum
- Ineffectiveness in streamlining an already industrialized approach
Govt widens tax net, expands the ambit of startup definition
The Ministry for Commerce and Industry has cleared the proposal to simplify the exemptions for start-ups under Section 56(2)(viib) of Income Tax Act.
What is Section 56(2) (viib) of Income Tax Act?
- Section 56(2) (viib) of the Income Tax Act provides that the amount raised by a start-up in excess of its fair market value would be deemed as income from other sources and would be taxed at 30 per cent.
What is the New Tax exemption?
- With the new notification, all investments made up to Rs 25 crore will be exempt from any form of scrutiny from the government.
- This move will encourage the angel investments that are crucial to catalyse the start-up ecosystem.
New Start up definition:
- An entity shall be considered a start-up up to 10 years from its date of incorporation/registration instead of the previous period of 7 years.
- Similarly, an entity will be a start-up if its turnover for any of the fiscal years since it got registered/incorporated was below Rs 100 crore, in place of Rs 25 crore earlier.
Restriction on Start-ups:
- However, there are certain exceptions. A start-up cannot invest in a building or land unless it is for its business or used by it for purposes of renting or held by it as stock-in-trade.
- It also cannot offer loans or advances, other than those where lending money is part of its business.
- A start-up also cannot make any capital contribution to any other entity or invest in shares, car, any vehicle or mode of transport that costs more than Rs 10 lakh.
- This ensures the CBDT’s concerns that start-ups will not be used for money laundering or doesn’t receive investment from shell companies for tax evasion.
Significance of new rules:
- This is an excellent solution as it takes away two major pain points for start-ups.
- Firstly, Elimination of case by case clearance which was time consuming and not practical.
- Secondly, valuation has been removed as criteria. This was a major concern as it needed certification by merchant bankers who had no idea about it as valuation is a result of the negotiations between the company and their investors.
- The Rs 25 crore threshold is wide to cover almost all angel investments as most of them are less than this number.
- Listed companies can now invest in start-ups without angel tax.
DPIIT launches second edition of States’ ranking on Startup initiatives
Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) released second edition of Startup Ranking for 2019.
About the Ranking Framework 2019:
- The Start-up Ranking framework aims to rank the States for establishing a robust ecosystem for supporting Start-ups during the assessment period from May 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.
- The Ranking Framework 2019 comprises of 7 pillars and 30 action points.
- The pillars will assess States efforts across institutional support, simplifying regulations, easing public procurement, incubation support, seed funding support, venture funding support and awareness related activities.
- The launch of the ranking framework in 2018 galvanized the States into action giving impetus to the Start-up movement.
- As part of the Ranking 2019 exercise, DPIIT will recognize innovative Start-up programs and initiatives from State/UT Governments.
- The Start-up Ranking 2019 is expected to take forward the Start-up ecosystem and give momentum to the vision of India becoming a Start-up Nation.
- Startup India, launched in January-2016, is a flagship initiative of the Government of India intended to build a strong ecosystem that is conducive for the growth of startup businesses.
- The action plan of this initiative, is based on the following three pillars:
- Simplification and Handholding.
- Funding Support and Incentives.
- Industry-Academia Partnership and Incubation.
Key Feature of start up India:
- 10,000 crore start up funding pool.
- Reduction in patent registration fees.
- Improved Bankruptcy Code, to ensure a 90-day exit window.
- Freedom from mystifying inspections for first 3 years of operation.
- Freedom from Capital Gain Tax for first 3 of operation.
- Freedom from tax for first 3 years of operation.
- Self-certification compliance.
- Create an Innovation hub, under the Atal Innovation Mission.
- To target 500k schools, and involve 1m children in innovation related programmes.
- New schemes to provide IPR protection to startup firms.
- Encourage entrepreneurship within the country.
- Promote India across the world as a start-up hub.
Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Corridor of RRTS
The Union Cabinet approved construction of Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Corridor of Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) covering a distance of 82.15 kms.
- The RRTS is a first-of-its-kind, rail-based, high-speed regional transit system to be implemented in India.
- Once operational, it will be the fastest, most comfortable and safest mode of commuter transport in the National Capital Region (NCR).
- The RRTS aims to streamline the urban transportation system, which is stressed due to intensive developments, and increase in the number of private vehicles.
- The project is meant to ensure ‘Universal Access’ by being sensitive to the needs of women, children and vulnerable sections of the society.
Bilateral & International Relations
Trump Signs Directive to Create a Military Space Force
President of the United States signed the Space Policy Directive-4 (SPD-4) establishing the Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States military.
Reason for creating space force:
- To secure and extend American dominance of the space domain.
- To deter threats in space through the U.S. Space Force which will organize, train, and equip military space forces.
What is Space Force?
- The United States Space Force, as proposed by the Trump administration, would be a new branch of the military by 2020, on par with the army, navy, air force, marines and coast guard.
- An independent branch can’t be created until Congress approves it, but the administration can take several steps on its own to prepare for the launch of a new force, the first since the air force was formed shortly after the second world war.
- Officials plan to create a Space Operations Force – an “elite group of war fighters specializing in the domain of space” drawn from various branches of the military, in the style of existing special operations forces.
- They’ll also create a United States Space Command and a Space Development Agency and appoint an assistant secretary of defense for space.
- The main intention behind the creation of a “space force” is to see that the U.S. establishes and maintains dominance in space.
- The purpose is to deny the Russians and the Chinese advantages in space.
Does it already exist?
- There is no independent military branch focused on space, but there is a sizable space command within the air force.
- Created in 1982, it is headquartered at Peterson air force base in Colorado and oversees 30,000 people. It includes the Space and Missile Systems Center, oversees Department of Defense satellites, and uses radar to monitor ballistic missile launches to guard against a surprise attack on the United States.
Would military action in space be legal?
- In a word, yes. But if a U.S. Space Force ever came online, legal experts say that international law would limit what it could do.
- All major space powers, including the U.S., Russia, and China, have signed the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The pact says that nothing in space can be claimed as a single country’s territory, and it bars countries from stationing nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction anywhere in outer space, including in orbit around Earth.
- The treaty gets stricter when it comes to “celestial bodies” such as the moon and Mars. Parties can’t build military bases, conduct military maneuvers, or test weapons of any kind—even conventional weapons—on another world.
- But the Outer Space Treaty does give countries some wiggle room. The treaty doesn’t explicitly forbid intercontinental ballistic missiles, which enter and exit space on their way toward their targets.
- The treaty also doesn’t specify whether conventional weapons can be used in open space or on space stations.
How this idea is not feasible?
- The fundamental difficulty of a space corps is that the physical environment of space is not conducive to the conduct of military operations without incurring serious losses in the form of spacecraft and debris.
- Another military arm would only compound the organisational challenges facing the U.S. armed services.
- It could undercut ongoing missions.
- It could very well increase budgetary allocations in the future.
- A space corps could undermine American efforts in the domain of joint warfare.
- And despite efforts to make spacecraft more fuel efficient, the energy requirements are enormous.
- The technical demands of defending assets in space make the possibility of dominance and space as a domain for war-fighting a sort of chimera.
Space Policy Directive-4 (SPD-4):
- The space policy of the United States includes both the making of space policy and the implementation of that policy in the civilian and military US space programs through regulatory agencies.
- SPD-4 is US President Donald Trump’s fourth space policy directive.
- The first SPD directed NASA to get humans back to the moon as a stepping-stone to Mars.
- The second streamlined regulations for the commercial space sector
- The third dealt with management of space traffic.
Trump declares “national emergency” to get his wall
President of United States has declared the U. S-Mexico border a “national emergency,” to circumvent US Congress’s constitutional powers to divert federal funds toward border wall.
- The emergency declared by US president has drawn immense criticism as an overreach of executive power.
What is a national emergency?
- In 1976, US Congress passed the National Emergencies Act, which permits the president to pronounce a national emergency when s/he considers it appropriate.
- The act offers no specific definition of “emergency” and allows a president to declare one entirely at his or her discretion.
- By declaring a national emergency, the president avails himself or herself of dozens of specialized laws. Some of these powers have funds the president otherwise could not access.
- Under current law, emergency powers lapse within a year unless the president renews them.
- A national emergency can be re-declared indefinitely.
When have they been declared in the past?
- Presidents have declared national emergencies since World War II.
- The vast majority have been economic sanctions against foreign actors whose activities pose a national threat.
- A handful of declarations have involved noneconomic crises:
- Former US President Barack Obama declared a national emergency during the H1N1 swine flu epidemic in 2009 to set up proper patient treatment.
- Former US President Bush declared a national emergency after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the order is still in effect.
Is a national emergency the same thing as an executive order?
- In general, national emergencies have been declared through executive orders.
- An executive order is a command issued by the president that carries the force of law.
- Executive orders direct federal agencies on how to spend available resources.
- Executive orders do not create new law or allocate additional funding.
- US president Trump issued an executive order making construction of a wall a federal priority.
- The wall could not be built unless Congress provided him with the funds.
How does a president declare a national emergency?
- A president must issue a written and signed declaration that specifies the specific emergency powers he plans to rely on and invoke.
What happens once a national emergency is declared?
- Anyone directly affected by the emergency order can challenge it in court.
- Congress can also draft a concurrent resolution to terminate the state of emergency.
- The House Democrats can also join an outside lawsuit or choose to sue on their own.
Does Congress have enough votes to terminate the emergency declaration?
- Like any legislation passed by Congress, the president could veto the resolution unless it has received supermajority support (two-thirds in each chamber).
Science & Technology
New Universe map unearths 3,00,000 more galaxies
An international team of astronomers discovered unknown galaxies using a Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) telescope that can detect light sources which optical instruments cannot see.
- New observation technique would allow astronomers to compare black holes over time to see how they form and develop.
- The team plans to create high-resolution images of the entire northern sky, which they say will reveal undetected radio sources.
- It was introduced by ASTRON Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.
- LOFAR started as a new effort to force a breakthrough in sensitivity for astronomical observations at radio-frequencies below 250 MHz.
- The LOFAR telescope, a real-time multiple sensor array, is made up of a network of radio antenna across seven countries, forming the equivalent of a 1,300-km diameter satellite dish.
- LOFAR is the first large radio telescope system wherein a huge amount of small sensors is used to achieve its sensitivity.
- The agricultural application of LOFAR is the use of the (fibre-) infrastructure developed and has chosen as its first application the measurement of the micro-climate in potato crops.
- The TU Delft and The Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI) are participating in the application of LOFAR in the geosciences.
- The project is based on an interferometric array of radio telescopes using about 20,000 small antennas concentrated in at least 48 stations.
How it works?
- It is the first telescope of using an array of simple omni-directional antennas (radiates equal radio power in all directions) instead of mechanical signal processing with a dish antenna.
- The electronic signals from the antennas are digitised, transported to a central digital processor, and combined in software to emulate a conventional antenna.
- Radio astronomy allows scientists to detect radiation produced when massive celestial objects interact.
Key Facts for Prelims
Mahatma Gandhi Scholarships
- For study in India, total 150 students of Sri Lanka from all 25 districts were awarded the prestigious Mahatma Gandhi scholarships.
- The Mahatma Gandhi Scholarships are merit-cum-means based Scholarship instituted in 2006-07 for Sri Lankan students.
- It is awarded annually by the High Commission of India in cooperation with the Ministry of Education of Sri Lanka.
Sikaria Mega Food Park
- Recerntly, the Sikaria Mega Food Park was inaugurated in Tripura.
- This is the 17th Mega Food Park in the country and first in the state of Tripura.
14th Agricultural Science Congress
- It was recently held at New Delhi.
- Its theme was “Innovations for Agricultural Transformation”.
- It was organized by the National Academy of Agricultural Science (NAAS) in collaboration with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR) and Indian Agricultural Research Institute.
What is the Island Development Agency (IDA)?
- The IDA was set up on 1st June, 2017 following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s review meeting for the development of islands.
- The meetings of the agency are chaired by the Union Home Minister.
- Members of the IDA include cabinet secretary, home secretary, secretary (environment, forests and climate change), secretary (tourism) and secretary (tribal welfare).